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South Georgia Heritage Policy and Strategy

GSGSSI Heritage Context

The island of South Georgia has a unique industrial heritage and historical sites dating back to the early exploitation of the island’s natural resources from the early 19th Century. This includes the sites of sealing camps, early scientific expeditions, the remains of the former whaling stations, various wrecks and the historic buildings at King Edward Point. There are also important links to early polar exploration, most notably Sir Ernest Shackleton.

The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) aims to preserve, where practicable and as sympathetically as possible, the unique industrial heritage of South Georgia, either in situ or through the transfer of artifacts to museums, if it is appropriate to do so.

The Government is committed to engaging with stakeholders, including the South Georgia Association (SGA), the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) & the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) in developing long-term objectives and management plans for historic sites including the former whaling stations.

The South George Heritage Advisory Panel, formed by GSGSSI in 2014, directly advises the Government on all significant heritage projects. This ensures any work undertaken reflects, where possible recognised international standards of best practice. The panel also provides recommendations to GSGSSI on the development of policies, restoration strategies and the drafting of new legislation to protect the island’s heritage sites and artifacts.

The Government remains committed to facilitating visitor access to heritage sites where it is safe and appropriate to do so, thereby promoting and raising awareness of the significance of South Georgia’s remarkable history. This includes the maintenance of the Grytviken museum buildings.

The condition of the former whaling stations, which collectively form the most significant industrial heritage sites, has greatly deteriorated in recent years. With the exception of Grytviken, where the hazardous material and structures have been removed and the site made safe by GSGSSI, access to these stations is prohibited by law due to the risks of structural collapse or exposure to wind blown debris and airborne asbestos.

GSGSSI Approach to Heritage:

  • Work with the South Georgia Heritage Advisory Panel to develop a new heritage strategy by 2025, building on the previous strategy published in 2017 (download below).
  • Continue to maintain and facilitate visitor access to the South Georgia Museum and associated heritage buildings at Grytviken.
  • Review, identify, prioritise and progress heritage projects, engaging with stakeholders as appropriate.
  • Ensure the safety of visitors and staff at accessible heritage sites.
  • Ensure that all works undertaken at heritage sites are completed to a high standard with due regard to health and safety.
  • Consider the role of new legislation in ensuring the protection of heritage sites and objects.
  • Encourage the return of artifacts previously removed from South Georgia without permission.
  • Communicate key developments in heritage management to stakeholders through government communication channels and the annual report.
SGSSI Heritage Framework and Strategy (2017)pdf272 KB