South Georgia Island

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South Georgia
Central South Georgia
Map of South Georgia Island
Location South Atlantic
Coordinates 54°24′S36°42′W / 54.4°S 36.7°W / -54.4; -36.7
ArchipelagoSouth Georgia group
Area3,528 km2 (1,362 sq mi)
Length167.4 km (104.02 mi)
Width37 km (23 mi)
Highest elevation2,934 m (9626 ft)
Highest point Mount Paget
Largest settlement Grytviken
Population32 (summer)
16 (winter)

South Georgia (Spanish : Isla San Pedro) is an island in the southern Atlantic Ocean that is part of the British Overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The main settlement is Grytviken. South Georgia is 167.4 kilometres (104 mi) long and 1.4 to 37 km (0.9 to 23.0 miles) wide. [1] It is about 830 km (520 mi) northeast of Coronation Island and 550 km (340 mi) northwest from Zavodovski Island, the nearest South Sandwich island.



The Island of South Georgia is said to have been first sighted in 1675 by Anthony de la Roché, a London merchant, and was named Roche Island on a number of early maps. It was sighted by a commercial Spanish ship named León operating out of Saint-Malo on 28 June or 29 June 1756. [2] According to Argentine historians, it was explored on 29 June 1756, St. Peter's day, hence its Spanish name Isla San pedro, literally "St. Peter's Island". [3]

Commercial sealing was conducted on the island between 1786 and 1913. During that period 131 sealing visits are recorded, eight of which ended when the vessel was wrecked. [4] Modern industrial sealing associated with whaling stations was carried out between 1909 and 1964. Sealing era relics include iron trypots, hut ruins, graves and inscriptions.

Argentine occupation

On 19 March 1982, a group of Argentinians arrived at Leith Harbour and raised the Argentine flag on the island. On 3 April, the second day of the Falklands War, Argentine naval forces formally annexed the island. South Georgia was retaken by British forces on 25 April during Operation Paraquet.

Geography and fauna

Topography of South Georgia Island Sgo topo.png
Topography of South Georgia Island
Church at Grytviken Grytviken church.jpg
Church at Grytviken

The island is classified as an ET or polar tundra climate on the Köppen-Geiger classification system. It has no tree cover, and there is generally snow on the island during the winter months (April–November). The terrain is mountainous, with a central ridge and many fjords and bays along the coast. Additionally, South Georgia is a breeding ground for elephant seals, [5] fur seals, [6] [7] and king penguins. The island is home to the South Georgia Pintail and the South Georgia Pipit, the only known habitat for these birds. [8]

The island's topography includes a stepped sequence of flat surfaces interpreted as wave-cut platforms formed when sea level was higher relative to the island. At sea level strandflats have been described. [9]

In 2013, teams of Norwegian government shooters and Sami reindeer herders culled all 3,500 reindeer on the island. The animals had been introduced by Norwegian whalers in the early 20th century for food and sport hunting, but were later seen as a pest, damaging the island's flora and wider ecosystem. Karl Erik Kilander, the project manager, said the culled reindeer were frozen and taken to the Falkland Islands where they were sold to local residents and cruise ship operators. [10]

In 2018, after a multiyear extermination effort, the island was declared free of invasive rodents and the number of South Georgia Pipits had clearly increased. [11] [12] [13]

Related Research Articles

Antarctic Polar region around the Earths South Pole

The Antarctic is a polar region around the Earth's South Pole, opposite the Arctic region around the North Pole. The Antarctic comprises the continent of Antarctica, the Kerguelen Plateau and other island territories located on the Antarctic Plate or south of the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic region includes the ice shelves, waters, and all the island territories in the Southern Ocean situated south of the Antarctic Convergence, a zone approximately 32 to 48 km wide varying in latitude seasonally. The region covers some 20 percent of the Southern Hemisphere, of which 5.5 percent is the surface area of the Antarctic continent itself. All of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude are administered under the Antarctic Treaty System. Biogeographically, the Antarctic realm is one of eight biogeographic realms of the Earth's land surface.

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) is a British Overseas Territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It is a remote and inhospitable collection of islands, consisting of South Georgia and a chain of smaller islands known as the South Sandwich Islands. South Georgia is 165 kilometres (103 mi) long and 35 kilometres (22 mi) wide and is by far the largest island in the territory. The South Sandwich Islands lie about 700 kilometres (430 mi) southeast of South Georgia. The territory's total land area is 3,903 km2 (1,507 sq mi). The Falkland Islands are about 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) west-northwest from its nearest point.

Grytviken Place in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, United Kingdom

Grytviken was the largest whaling station on South Georgia, part of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic. The settlement, which is located at the head of King Edward Cove within the larger Cumberland East Bay, was considered the best harbour on South Georgia Island. It was founded on November 16, 1904, by Carl Anton Larsen of Sandefjord, Norway.

Shag Rocks (South Georgia) Group of six islands in South Georgia

The Shag Rocks are six small islands in the westernmost extreme of South Georgia, 240 km (150 mi) west of the main island of South Georgia and 1,000 km (620 mi) off the Falkland Islands. The Shag Rocks are located at 53°32′51″S42°01′12″W. 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) further southeast is Black Rock, which is located at 53°38′06″S41°46′30″W.

Weddell Island island of the Falkland Islands

Weddell Island is one of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, lying off the southwest extremity of West Falkland. It is situated 1,545 km (960 mi) west-northwest of South Georgia Island, 1,165 km (724 mi) north of Livingston Island, 606 km (377 mi) northeast of Cape Horn, 358 km (222 mi) northeast of Isla de los Estados, and 510 km (320 mi) east of the Atlantic entrance to Magellan Strait.

South Shetland Islands A group of islands north of the Antarctic Peninsula

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Jason Islands island in the Falkland Islands

The Jason Islands are an archipelago in the Falkland Islands, lying to the far north-west of West Falkland. Three of the islands, Steeple Jason, Grand Jason and Clarke's Islet, are private nature reserves owned by the Wildlife Conservation Society of New York City. Other islands in the group are National Nature Reserves owned by the Falkland Islands Government.

Antarctic fur seal species of mammal

The Antarctic fur seal, is one of eight seals in the genus Arctocephalus, and one of nine fur seals in the subfamily Arctocephalinae. Despite what its name suggests, the Antarctic fur seal is mostly distributed in Subantarctic islands and its scientific name is thought to have come from the German vessel SMS Gazelle, which was the first to collect specimens of this species from Kerguelen Islands.

Bird Island, South Georgia Place in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, United Kingdom

Bird Island is 4.8 kilometres (3 mi) long and 800 metres (875 yd) wide, separated from the western end of South Georgia by Bird Sound. It is part of the British overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, also claimed by Argentina as part of Tierra del Fuego province.

Bristol Island island

Bristol Island is an 8 km (5-mile) long island lying midway between Montagu Island and Thule Island in the South Sandwich Islands.

Scotia Sea sea at the northern edge of the Southern Ocean at its boundary with the South Atlantic Ocean

The Scotia Sea is a sea located at the northern edge of the Southern Ocean at its boundary with the South Atlantic Ocean. It is bounded on the west by the Drake Passage and on the north, east, and south by the Scotia Arc, an undersea ridge and island arc system supporting various islands. The sea sits atop the Scotia Plate. It is named after the expedition ship Scotia. Many icebergs melt there.

<i>Poa flabellata</i> species of plant

Poa flabellata, commonly known as tussac grass or just tussac, is a tussock grass native to southern South America, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and other islands in the South Atlantic. There are also two isolated records from the herbarium at the French Muséum national d'histoire naturelle for the Île Amsterdam in the Indian Ocean.

Flag of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands flag

The flag of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands was granted on 3 October 1985, when the Territory was created. Previously the Territory was a part of the Falkland Islands Dependency and used the same flag.

Coat of arms of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands coat of arms

The coat of arms of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands was granted in 1985, upon the creation of the territory. Prior to 1985, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands were a dependency of the Falkland Islands, and used their coat of arms. However, prior to 1962, the islands were grouped with what is now the British Antarctic Territory and their coat of arms was used instead of the Falkland Islands’ arms.

History of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands aspect of history

The history of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is relatively recent. When European explorers discovered the islands, they were uninhabited, and their hostile climate, mountainous terrain, and remoteness made subsequent settlement difficult. Due to these conditions, human activity in the islands has largely consisted of sealing, whaling, and scientific surveys and research, interrupted by World War II and the Falklands War.

Schlieper Bay bay in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, United Kingdom

Schlieper Bay is a bay 1 mile (1.6 km) wide, entered between Romerof Head and Weddell Point along the south coast of South Georgia. Schlieper Bay was named between 1905 and 1912 after the director of the Compañía Argentina de Pesca.

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands sovereignty dispute

The sovereignty of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is disputed by United Kingdom and Argentina. The United Kingdom claimed South Georgia in 1775, annexed the islands in 1908, and has exercised de facto control with the exception of a brief period during the Falklands War in 1982 when the islands were partially controlled by Argentina. The dispute started in 1927 when Argentina claimed sovereignty over South Georgia, and subsequently was expanded in scope with Argentina claiming the South Sandwich Islands in 1938. The islands have no indigenous population, and currently only have about 30 inhabitants.

Languages of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands languages of a geographic region

The only official language of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is English, and this is spoken by almost everyone on a day-to-day basis. The islands' population is currently transient, and there never were any native South Georgians, although a handful of people have been born there.

Reindeer in South Georgia

Reindeer in South Georgia are an example of an animal which has been introduced outside its native range. The reindeer, a species of deer adapted to arctic and subarctic climates, was introduced to the subantarctic island of South Georgia by Norwegian whalers in the early 20th century. The reason for the introduction was to provide both recreational hunting and fresh meat for the numerous people working in the whaling industry on the island at the time. Since then, with the end of the whaling industry, and in the absence of a permanently resident population, the reindeer population, in two geographically separated wild herds, increased to the point where their presence was causing environmental damage and led to a decision to eradicate them.

Sally Poncet is an Australian-born scientist and adventurer who has explored and studied the Antarctic region since 1977. Her specialty is birds and she made extensive studies of albatross and their habitats for the British Antarctic Survey. She has written guidebooks on preservation of the flora and fauna of South Georgia and received numerous awards and honors, including the Blue Water Medal, the Fuchs Medal and the Polar Medal for her contributions to understanding the southern polar region.


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  3. Destéfani, Laurio Hedelvio (1982). Malvinas, Georgias y Sandwich del Sur ante el conflicto con Gran Bretaña (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Edipress. p. 111. ISBN   9500169002.
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  7. Boyd, I. L., McCafferty, D. J., Reid, K., Taylor, R., & Walker, T. R. (1998). Dispersal of male and female Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 55(4), 845–852. doi : 10.1139/f97-314
  8. Amos, Jonathan (2018-05-09). "Rodents driven from South Georgia". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  9. Chalmers, M.; Clapperton, M.A. (1970). Geomorhpology of the Stromness Bay – Cumberland Bay area, South Georgia (PDF) (Report). British Antarctic Survey Scientific Reports. 70. pp. 1–25. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
  10. Bazilchuk, Nancy (2013). "Reining in Reindeer on South Georgia Island". Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 11 (4): 176. JSTOR   23470940.
  11. Warren, Matt (2018-05-08). "Rat begone: Record eradication effort rids sub-Antarctic island of invasive rodents". Science. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  12. "The Intrepid Rat-Sniffing Terriers of South Georgia Island". 17 May 2018.
  13. Marris, Emma (11 May 2018). "Birdlife Recovering on Rat-Free Island". National Geographic . Retrieved 6 July 2020.