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South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are two groups of sub-Antarctic islands in the Southern Ocean east of the southern tip of South America, north of Antarctica. The islands are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom that are administered from the Falkland Islands, but are also claimed by Argentina.

Regions

Research Stations

While whalers and seal hunters built settlements on these islands, the only permanent settlements today are at the various research bases. A "city" in these islands may consist of no more than five people during the winter months.

  • King Edward Point - Seat of Government where the Government Officer resides. Is the port of entry and home of the Fishery Research base run for the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) by the British Antarctic Survey.
  • Grytviken - One of several former whaling stations on South Georgia.
  • Bird Island - An island located at the north-west tip of South Georgia on which long-term research by the British Antarctic Survey is ongoing.

Understand

South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands are rugged islands, rising out of the Southern Ocean. There are no indigenous residents, very few people live here and only those who really want to make the trip end up coming.

The islands have played a minor role in history, including a brief occupation by Argentina during the Falklands War in 1982, the Falkland Islands themselves being 1000 km (621 miles) to the west. One famous previous visitor is Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, who used the islands as a staging post for his 1914 expedition. He is in fact buried in the small settlement of Grytviken.

As with the Falklands, Argentina still maintains a formal claim to the islands, however the British military presence on the islands came to an end in March 2001. Today, the King Edward Point station houses a permanent group of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, which also maintains a biological station on Bird Island.

Get in

These islands are one of the most remote places in the world, with the only access being by sea. The Southern Ocean is one of the roughest in the world with storms that can make even the most hardened sailor feel ill.

Visitors are allowed to land at multiple points around the islands. Usually all the documentation will be taken care of by the cruise or expedition you are with. Independent travel by ship requires prior approval of your entire itinerary. The application forms are available online from the islands' government website. The main requirements for independent travellers are to have insurance and to ensure you are self-sufficient. A fee of £105 is also payable per passenger for visits up to 3 days.

Get around

Only competent mountaineers need try and travel overland, because of the glaciers. The best way to get around is by boat. If you have time come by yacht - specialist charterers operate out of Ushuaia and the Falklands. If time is tight come on a cruise ship. There are around 40 visits a year between November and March. In winter the snow is down to sea level and cross-country skis, or snowshoes, are the way to get about. In summer you can walk normally, at least down near the coast.

Talk

As a British territory with such a small population and being as remote as it is, English is spoken by everyone.

Buy

There is a small gift shop at Grytviken which will accept Falkland pounds, British pounds, American dollars and Euros. Water is sold by the tonne. Most large ships visiting the islands will sell basic supplies (razors, shampoo, hats, snacks), but otherwise it is unlikely you will have any use for whatever money you bring with you.

Eat

It is illegal to kill or damage native flora or fauna, so penguin egg omelettes and albatross chicks are off the menu.

  • The introduced dandelions make a good salad, washed and then tossed in oil and vinegar with beetroot and walnuts. Shooting the reindeer is prohibited except under licence from the Commissioner, but he is not likely to grant one unless you have a good reason.
  • You can fish with a rod and line and may catch a marbled rock cod, or possibly one of the other Antarctic fishes in the bays. Only catch enough to eat - they are protected, and while nobody minds you catching the odd one or two, you'll need to buy an expensive licence to catch commercial quantities. If you pass a commercial fishing vessel at sea, it is worth swinging by to see if they offer you any, but be very careful not to get in the way of their fishing gear.

Drink

While there is a small bar at King Edward Point, unless you're a researcher living at the station it's not a place that visitors have access to. As a result, all alcohol and other beverages should be brought with you.

Sleep

Anyone wishing to sleep ashore overnight must have their proposal vetted by the Government's Expeditions Advisory Panel. This process will cost you £1000 per expedition. As a result, nearly all visitors to the islands sleep aboard ship at night.

Camping may be permitted in the Grytviken area without going through the expensive expedition application vetting process, but you will have to have transport and medical backup prearranged.

Stay safe

See the stay safe section of the next-to-impossible destinations article for general information on staying safe in remote locations.

Stay healthy

  • Beware of the sun - particularly during the September to November ozone hole season. Protect yourself with high protection factor cream (30+), a floppy hat and long sleeves. If going onto glaciers or snow this is vital as are good sunglasses.
  • Fur seal bites are capable of becoming very badly infected in a short period of time. If you get bitten, even just a scratch, you must clean the wound and get onto an appropriate course of antibiotics immediately (oxytetracycline is good for this application).
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid dehydration, particularly if it is windy.

Respect

Respect wildlife. It lives here, we don't. Breeding animals in particular are prone to disturbance.

Connect

During the summer mail may be left in Grytviken, and it is picked up whenever either a supply ship or a fishery patrol ship arrives - usually around once a month. The only other option for contacting the outside world is with a satellite phone, which most boats will make available at a charge of between US$2 and US$5 per minute.

There is no public Internet, phone or email access available on shore.

A Field Guide to the Wildlife of South Georgia (Wild Guides)

Robert Burton

South Georgia is rich in wildlife and spectacular scenery, and it is a prime destination spot on most Antarctic tours. This beautifully illustrated field guide depicts the birds, mammals, insects, flowering plants, and other vegetation found in this unique part of the world. It features 368 full-color photographs of more than 180 species, including 65 species of birds, 20 species of sea mammals, nearly 60 species of insects, and more than 40 species of flowering and nonflowering plants. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, with information on status, behavior, threats, and distribution. This one-of-a-kind photographic guide also includes introductory chapters on South Georgia's geography, climate, ecology, and conservation.Features 368 photos of more than 180 species Covers birds, sea mammals, insects, and plants Provides detailed species accounts Includes chapters on geography, climate, ecology, and conservation The only photographic field guide to focus specifically on South Georgia

A Visitor's Guide to South Georgia: Second Edition (Wild Guides)

Sally Poncet

This is the only illustrated guide specifically tailored to the needs of visitors to this remote and captivating part of the world, and it is the ideal book for armchair naturalists.

A Visitor's Guide to South Georgia features hundreds of color photographs of the diverse wildlife and breathtaking scenery to be found at this unique tourist destination. It includes extensive and up-to-date coverage of all wildlife groups―from albatrosses and petrels to seals and penguins―as well as color maps and detailed information for the 23 key visitor sites. This stunning photographic guide describes the history, geology, and culture of South Georgia. It also provides a checklist of all fauna and flora as well as valuable tips for visitors to the islands, and the book’s wirebound format enables it to fold out flat for easy use in a water-protective holder.

Features hundreds of photos Covers all wildlife groups Includes maps and information for the 23 key visitor sites Describes South Georgia’s unique history, geology, and culture Provides a checklist of all fauna and flora Gives valuable tips for visitors

South Georgia & Sandwich Islands, BRITAIN

Naira Matevosyan

Join your exotic tourmate, Quincy the quoll, for a breathtaking journey to the Antarctic Cup. Fauna, flora (including the 8 species of penguins) are meticulously described. Commuting tips are provided and include detailed information about the dispatch city of Ushuaia, Argentina (the southernmost city of the world), the 20-day cruise, landing and eco-tourism in the destined archipelago. But most of all, this book is about grit, perseverance, and selfless, unconditional love.

Antarctic Oasis: Under the Spell of South Georgia

Pauline Carr

An account of one couple's life on a remote island beyond the Polar Front, a tale to rival the exploits of the great nineteenth-century explorers.

After twenty-five years of cruising the world's oceans, renowned blue-water sailors Pauline and Tim Carr found themselves being drawn to the lonely places of the higher latitudes to experience earth's last, scarcely touched regions. Antarctic Oasis records the culmination of those exploits. True adventurers, the Carrs have lived year-round on South Georgia for five years―its only civilian inhabitants―experiencing a way of life that has all but vanished from our modern world. A center of the Norwegian whaling industry in the last century, today a remnant of the far-flung British Empire, South Georgia is a splendid if forbidding land of towering, glacier-clad mountains and a treacherous, storm-torn coast punctuated by sheltered bays. During its brief polar summer, the island's verdant shoreline offers Antarctic wildlife a place to feed, mate, and rear their young. The only humans on the scene, the Carrs have learned intimate details about the lives of whales, penguins, seals, albatrosses, skuas, and many others. In all seasons the Carrs explore South Georgia's uncompromising coast aboard their yacht Curlew. Their deep fascination with the island, its wildlife, and its history will stir the spirit of adventure and discovery in us all.

Nations Of South America: Fun Facts about South America for Kids

Speedy Publishing

A picture book of South America for children can lead a child to wonderful adventures. It can show any child another culture,teach history, show them history, and even teach them about a rainforest. Any child would love to have a picture book of South America. There is so much enjoyment in stories about South America. The pictures would offer added visual aspects. A child can learn of the importance of rain. They may see pictures of the rain forests and can enjoy a sense of wonder about the world.

Lichens of Antarctica and South Georgia: A Guide to their Identification and Ecology (Studies in Polar Research)

D. O. Øvstedal

Antarctica's severe climate and restricted area of ice-free habitats limit the biodiversity and biota of its terrestrial ecosystems. Throughout much of this wilderness, lichens are the predominant visible life form, yet relatively few descriptive accounts of Antarctic lichens have been published. This volume provides the first modern detailed compilation of their taxonomy, ecology, distribution, and relevant published literature. As such, it represents a major contribution to global lichen taxonomy and biogeography. The systematic accounts provide sufficient descriptive information to allow specialists to identify taxa to species level, and are structured so that even nonspecialists can use them to identify specimens to at least the generic level.

Antarctic Encounter: Destination South Georgia

Sally Poncet

A tour of Antarctica wildlife is seen through the eyes of three young people whose parents study the bird populations of South Georgia, and among the visited areas are a ghostly whaling station and a penguin beach.

South Georgia Explorer Map (Ocean Explorer Maps)

Ocean Explorer Maps

This addition to the "Ocean Explorer" series provides the reader with a concise introduction to the region. General information on the areas geography and history is included, as is an historical time line. Numerous colour photographs and text boxes are featured on the face of the map providing information on the region's wildlife and highlighting key visitor sites.

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