Preserving South Georgia’s History, Restoring its Environment
The island of South Georgia is a unique place; it is one of nature’s paradises and yet it is also rich with historical heritage.
South Georgia is positioned in the Southern Ocean to the south of the Antarctic Convergence. This is where the cold Antarctic waters, which flow northward, sink beneath the warmer waters of the sub-Antarctic. Many factors, including its proximity to nutrient rich currents, contribute to the island’s biodiversity. Its dramatic snow-covered mountainous landscape and wide bays make it a place of exceptional natural beauty. All this creates a unique environment that supports an abundance of marine life and some terrestrial life.
This same abundance attracted humans to South Georgia, and it became a centre for the unsustainable sealing and whaling industries. The island was also the gateway to the Antarctic for heroes of polar exploration including Sir Ernest Shackleton. With its legacy of scientific research undertaken during the Discovery Investigations, its deserted whaling stations once home to communities of British and Norwegian whalers, and its pivotal role in the history of the Falklands war, South Georgia has a diverse, conflicting, and yet fascinating human heritage.
While sealing and whaling practices have now ceased, South Georgia continues to suffer from the long-term impact of human inhabitation – the ongoing devastation of South Georgia’s bird population by the introduced Norway brown rat.
The Friends of South Georgia Island organization was set up for the visiting public who wish to preserve the island’s natural and historical heritage for future generations – to redress the damage to its environment done in the past, and to preserve the human heritage of the island which so clearly shows the best and worst of humanity.
Our main projects focus on the preservation of plant and animal life, wilderness and human heritage.
The groundbreaking Habitat Restoration Project which began in 2011 will save native birds from extinction and increase by millions the numbers of endangered seabirds on South Georgia. We baited in 2013 and again in 2015. For the next 4 years we are actively engaged in carefully monitoring the baited sites. We are planning an evolving monitoring operation and in 2017 there will be a large scale survey to look for any signs of surviving rodents. The absence of rodents will allow seabirds to return to their traditional nesting sites. We are thrilled at our progress so far and reports to date give us the confidence that our work thus far has created safe nesting habitat for the population of South Atlantic seabirds. Read more about our Habitat Restoration Project…
Human Heritage Projects
We play a pivotal role in preserving the heritage of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s connection with South Georgia, and conserving artefacts from the island’s sealing and whaling industries. The South Georgia Museum which our supporters fund the running of, does much of the work in this area, for example tending to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave and hosting many artifacts associated with his time on the island .
We have also been involved in restoring some buildings from the industrial period of South Georgia’s history and we provide an international forum for the exchange of information and ideas on cultural heritage management in polar and sub-polar regions, for example the 2011 South Georgia Industrial Heritage Conference held in Dundee, Scotland.
We are also lucky to have artists and writers who are fascinated with the island, donate to our work through sales of their artworks and books available in our online shop. Read more about our heritage projects…