South Georgia Newsletter, Oct 2016 – Nov 2016

This newsletter is not produced by GSGSSI; it does not necessarily reflect their views.
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Construction begins on UK’s New Polar Vessel

On the 17 October, a ceremony was held at the Cammell Laird shipyard to mark the start of construction work on the new state-of-the art polar research vessel, the Royal Research Ship, Sir David Attenborough.



The keel laying ceremony took place in the Cammell Laird shipyard in Merseyside and involved a 100 tonne segment of the keel being lifted in to place on to the firms slipway. The ceremony formally marks the start of construction. Coins are traditionally laid under the keel during the ceremony which are then presented to the ships company after it is launched to bring them good luck. In true polar fashion, and in acknowledgement of the close relationship the vessel will have with the UK’s Overseas Territories, coins from the British Antarctic Territory, Falkland Islands, and South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands were presented for use in the day’s events.




Approximately £200 million investment has been secured for the ship and a number of associated infrastructure development projects. The vessel, due to become operational in 2019, will replace the two existing ships RRS James Clark Ross and RRS Earnest Shackleton and will provide a single platform for research and logistics. The questions that scientists investigate from the vessel will include questions of both global and regional relevance including issues climate change, future sea level rise and the impact of environmental change on marine biodiversity.

Coins supplied by

Stamp Issue – Zavodovski Island

GSGSSI has issued a set of stamps featuring Zavodovski Island in the South Sandwich Islands. The issue marks the release of the BBC’s Planet Earth II, fronted by Sir David Attenborough, and whose filming team visited Zavodovski Island in January 2015. Few humans have ever set foot on the island, let alone attempted comprehensively documenting the daily lives of the 1.5 million or so penguins that breed here. The resulting footage – made using long lens, gyro-stabilised hand-held cameras and a small drone – is the first filming of the largest colony and the first full portrait of the daily lives of these penguins, as they do battle with spectacular, and often deadly, waves in their mission to feed and raise their chicks. The stamps feature the following images:

  • 70p (Macaroni penguins) Although Zavodovski is best known as the largest chinstrap penguin colony in the world, several hundred thousand macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) also breed on the island.
  • 80p (Chinstrap penguins) Zavodovski Island is home to the largest penguin colony in the world – predominantly chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) of which there are estimated to be around 750,000 breeding pairs, plus adolescent non-breeders and chicks.
  • £1.05 (Chinstrap penguin chicks) Towards the end of January, the chicks are growing so quickly that both parents have to go to sea to feed. They leave the chicks in crèches, beginning as small groups of birds and increasing until they are huddles of ten or twenty individuals and more.
  • £1.25 (volcano) On the west side of Zavodovksi Island is the volcanic cone of Mount Curry which daily spews out volcanic clouds. The plateau to the east of it – where the largest aggregation of penguins is found – is known as Asphyxia Plain, and there are other sub-colonies at Stench Point and in the northwest of the Island.

A full press release can be downloaded here and further information from Pobjoy Mint.


zavodovski stamps

SGSSI Annual Stakeholder Meeting – Update

Slide from 'Strategy 2016 - 2020: One Year On.'

Slide from ‘Strategy 2016 – 2020: One Year On.’

The SGSSI Annual Stakeholder Meeting was reported in the previous Newsletter.

Interested parties can now download the minutes from the meeting in the updated report here.

Adler & Allan Ltd Appointed to Carry Out Survey

The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands is pleased to announce that following a competitive tender process, Adler & Allan Ltd (A&A) has been appointed to carry out a survey of the former whaling stations on South Georgia to identify quantities and types of oil waste, evaluate its condition, and provide recommendations and estimated costs on the best practical options for GSGSSI to manage the oil waste and protect the environment into the future.

Between 1904 and 1966 five principal whaling stations operated at various times on South Georgia at Grytviken, Husvik, Stromness, Leith and Prince Olav Harbour. Following the closure of the last operational station in 1966, the final lease holder undertook a substantial clean up operation during the 1990/91 season. Whilst this work removed the bulk of the waste oil from the fuel farm tanks, related pipework and structures a residual amount still remained.


whaling station


As the structural condition of the former whaling stations continues to deteriorate with each passing winter, ensuring the safe and proper management of any residual waste oil left in the whaling stations has become a high priority for GSGSSI. Early next year A&A (with support from GSGSSI) will carry out a survey of the sites and structures and will present GSGSSI with recommendations and estimated costs as to the best practical options for the future management of the residual oil.

Richard McKee Director of Operations for GSGSSI said “The scoping project, to quantify and evaluate the condition of the remaining oil is an essential component of the Government’s long term objective to develop a remediation plan and we look forward to working closely with Adler & Allan ”

Henry Simpson, Commercial Director for Adler & Allan said “We are delighted to have been selected by GSGSSI to carry out this important project to assess how the whaling stations can be decontaminated of historic oil residues. South Georgia is a challenging place to work but we relish the opportunity to help protect this beautiful environment and its history for future generations.”

Adler & Allan is a long established UK based company which specialises in oil related environmental services with significant experience in the assessment of tank installations, process plant decontamination and contaminated land remediation. A&A has worked on such projects as the clean-up after the 2005 Buncefield oil terminal explosion, the site clearance for the 2012 Olympics and the decontamination of the Kingsnorth power station in 2014. The company has worked in diverse environments including Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone and the Falkland Islands.

Guidance to Help Tourism Operators Plan Medical Provision

GSGSSI is pleased to make available “Guidelines for the Provision of Medical Care in South Georgia and other Antarctic Marine Areas by Seaborne Adventure Tourism”. This document identifies the medical risks associated with visits to South Georgia and offers advice and guidance to cruise ship operators and other visitors about the provision of appropriate medical care. The guidance in this document reflects expert medical advice prepared for the GSGSSI by World Extreme Medicine following consultation with stakeholders and a medical expert peer review process.

GSGSSI hope operators will welcome this guidance and we encourage them to use it to help them to ensure that their vessels have appropriate medical resources on board and ashore to care for passengers and crew during visits to South Georgia.

The guidance is not intended to be comprehensive or prescriptive, but sets out guidelines and suggestions for operators with a wider application to the tourism in the southern oceans and operators should take such further advice as they consider necessary.

We hope, that these guidelines will be of assistance and will prove to be helpful for the operators of visiting tourist vessels and private vessel owners alike.

The document can be downloaded here.

Legislation News

GSGSSI Consultation on the Legislative Review

Modernising GSGSSI’s legislation is a key part of its strategy and over the coming months further consultation papers will be launched on the website about subjects including crime. All our stakeholders are encouraged to participate and provide comments.

This fourth round of consultation is about the application of English law to SGSSI. The consultation is open until the 2nd January 2017.

Further details here.


Legislative Review – Customs and Policing

The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands has completed its consideration of the views expressed during the consultation on new legislation on Customs and Policing.

GSGSSI wish to thank all those who responded to the consultation.

The responses can be downloaded here.

New Government Officer Appointment

The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands is pleased to announce that Emma Jones has been recruited to the post of Government Officer.

Emma brings a wide range of skills and a wealth of experience to this post, which includes fisheries science and Protection Officer duties (both in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia fisheries), Antarctic tourism and, more recently, environmental protection and compliance responsibilities in the UK with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Emma will be accompanied by her husband Steve (who also has considerable South Georgia experience) and will be welcomed to the team in April 2017.

A Sisyphean Odyssey

By Caradoc Jones

Well for sure we keep coming back and it’s definitely taken a long time, perhaps deserving of a verse for each encounter. The previously unclimbed summits of South Georgia are year by year receiving their first ascents – the ‘Golden Age’ for any range in mountaineering parlance. The difficulty in getting to South Georgia coupled with its often ferocious weather means it’s a slow process that has often resulted in failure. When success occurs it is savoured all the more. The exalted summiteers, briefly elevated from the fray, are of course doomed to return to their eternal struggle.

This time the Pelagic Australis under Dave Roberts, Thomas Geipel and Kirsten Neuschafer ably supported by Ed Danby, Jose Aguirre, Cliona Bacon, Jennifer Coombs delivered Skip Novak and his selected band of mountaineers comprising of Stephen Venables, Crag Jones, Simon Richardson, Henry Chaplin and David Lund to Trolhul on the SE shore. From there they spent 16 days traversing the island to attempting various mountains en-route.




Never mind the Greeks. Henry Chaplin digs out a Celt after a 4 night snow storm. The soon to be climbed Starbuck Peak lies above the ski on the right. Venables had first spotted its potential 27 years previously! Jones and Novak had also groped around looking for it in continuous white-outs eleven years ago during their first attempt on Mt Baume.

Simon Richardson led a superb climb to the summit of Starbuck Peak and here we see Stephen on the summit in the best conditions any of us have seen in decades of climbing on South Georgia.




After that success we moved on to attempt the 1st ascent of Mount Baume pictured below. After 2 hours of sleep we commenced at 11pm for a 27 hour round trip to the summit and back.


climber on summit


A number of other peaks were also climbed during the expedition. After crossing the Ross pass we linked up the Web and Cook glaciers to descend to the coast in St Andrews. Pelagic Australis returned to the Falkland Islands in a record three and a half days.

SGSSI in the News

In the land of kings

“Hidden behind a wall of almost impenetrable fog near the bottom of the world, South Georgia Island teems with millions of penguins, albatrosses and seals, and serves as the final resting place for one of the most daring explorers of all time.”


Ships on World Coins: 2017 Centenary Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition Coin from Pobjoy Mint

“Commemorating one of the Greatest Survival Stories in History Featuring Shackleton’s Famous Ship Endurance”


In lost toes, a stirring Shackleton subplot

“Ernest Shackleton’s desperate 1916 open boat voyage over hundreds of miles of stormy seas is hailed as an epic feat that saved his stranded crew, but more interesting to a Harvard physician is the tale of the 22 crewmen left behind on tiny Elephant Island and the work of two doctors who tended them.”


Plymouth honours the fallen on Armistice Day 2016

“More than 7,500 miles from their home port of Plymouth, sailors and Royal Marines aboard the Royal Navy’s Antarctic survey and patrol ship HMS Protector stopped to remember Britain’s war dead off South Georgia in the South Atlantic.”


HMS Protector follows in Shackleton’s footsteps in South Georgia

“Having spent last Antarctic summer celebrating the deeds of one British polar hero, the crew of Royal Navy icebreaker HMS Protector have opened the 2016-17 survey season honouring his rival.”


Planet Earth II: the most amazing places, chosen by producers

“I can vividly remember the knot in my stomach as we approached the steaming, malevolent-looking crater of Zavodovski Island, 1,300 miles east of the Falklands in the Southern Ocean.”


Female Elephant Seals Count on KEP Beach 2016


skip-novacSerious Frostbiting with Skip Novak

“Ullman Sails just released their new Expedition Series, which are sails engineered specifically for high-latitude sailors and explorers. The team at Ullman Sails that developed the new product includes their Brand Ambassador and sailing great Skip Novak.”

British first ascents in South Georgia

“On the remote island of South Georgia (Southern Atlantic Ocean) Stephen Venables, Skip Novak, Crag Jones, Henry Chaplin, David Lund and Simon Richardson climbed 8 mountains, including the first ascent of the spectacular Starbuck peak and the remote and difficult Mount Baume, one of the highest unclimbed peaks on the island.”


Watch penguins play close to Beverley historic trawler Viola

“It was filmed by a member of a survey team during a recent visit to South Georgia, in the South Atlantic, where the Viola is currently berthed.”


Tom Hardy to Play Arctic Explorer Ernest Shackleton in a Historical Epic

“The storied exploits of the Endurance Expedition will be the subject of a feature in which Tom Hardy will star as the famed, eventually-knighted explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.”


sg satellite


Satellite Eye on Earth

“In late September , the clouds around South Georgia Island parted to reveal a large bright-white iceberg floating in the Atlantic Ocean just north-west of the island.”

Tom Crean’s granddaughter injured on sub-Antarctic expedition

“The group had set out to mark the 100-year-anniversary of one of Crean’s best-known feats – the 48km crossing of the sub-Antartic island of South Georgia.”


South Georgia Centenary Traverse 1916-2016 with Tom Crean’s Family

Latest Videos and Photos

BBC One: David Attenborough presents a documentary series exploring how animals meet the challenges of surviving in the most iconic habitats on earth.

Penguins jumping off cliffs – Zavodovski Island in the South Sandwich Islands.

Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic Expeditions – Live video recordings:

St Andrews Bay:


Elephant Seal + tussac grass

Photo: Simon Bowning



Photo: Pat Lurcock.





Photo: Pat Lurcock

Diary Dates