Preserving South Georgia’s History, Restoring its Environment
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. We have a board of 6 members with expertise and a love of the island.
Our main projects focus on the preservation of plant and animal life, wilderness and human heritage.
After our victorious and remarkable success in ridding South Georgia Island of rodents, we venture into uncharted territory once again. We are involved in several current environmental, science and cultural heritage projects listed below; in turn, we remain committed to the protection of one of the most remarkable islands in the South Atlantic.
The island of South Georgia
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 finally ceased, South Georgia continued to suffer from the long-term impact of human inhabitation – the devastation of South Georgia’s bird population by the introduced Norway brown rat. Thankfully in May 2018 that was officially declared to have been halted by our successful Habitat Restoration project. We remain vigilant and protect the island from rodent re-infestation by supporting bio-security projects and are involved in many other projects for the benefit of the island.
Environmental and Science Projects
Biosecurity Sniffer Dogs
Using rodent detection dogs to test/check incoming ships and cargo to ensure that vessels entering the maritime zone do not re-contaminate the island with rodents. We support the housing, training and feeding of these dogs that can sniff out rodents and prevent them from reinvading South Georgia Island. Read more here.
Research: Wild Water Whales – Southern Right, Humpback and Blue Whales
Identifying and monitoring the habits of whales which feed in South Georgia waters, along with measuring their recovery and repopulation progress through cutting-edge technology including buoys and underwater instruments. (Project led by British Antarctic Survey). Read more about the project here, and a February 2020 update on the return of the whales to South Georgia here.
Conservation: Albatrosses – Seabirds at Risk
The largest and most mesmerizing seabirds in the world live in the Southern Ocean. Witnessing a flying albatross at sea is unlike any other pelagic experience. We continue to support a multiyear project of looking at populations of Wandering, Grey-headed, Black-browed and Light-mantled Albatrosses, all of which have been declining in numbers. International fishing fleets snare them unintentionally as bycatch – we support work to educate the industry in alternative fishing methods to reduce bycatch.
Gough Island Rodent Eradication
Paying this forward—for anyone interested in supporting the work to clear Gough Island, overrun with super-sized mice, and to prevent the extinction of two critically endangered birds. A World Heritage site and a major nesting haven for the South Atlantic Tristan Albatross and numerous other seabirds, this sanctuary lies 1,500 miles northeast of South Georgia. You are welcome to donate directly, but if you need a US (charitable) tax receipt, the funds must be sent to FOSGI with a Gough Island notation, whereupon we will transfer them to Gough Island’s organization. www.rspb.org.uk/goughisland
Science & Technology
SGI: Live App. We are really excited about the development of this App through the University of Dundee/Centre for Remote Environments. The SGI: Live App will be globally accessible on mobile devices and can enhance the South Georgia visitor’s experience, from pre-visit orientation to tailored overlays where guests can step back in time as well as contribute information to ‘live’ South Georgia environmental science projects that convey topography, glacial changes, coastlines, and plant and animal populations. The App is currently in development. The educational and evidence-based decision making that could take place in the future will be monumental.
Habitat Restoration Project Success
The groundbreaking Habitat Restoration Project which began in 2011 and declared a success in 2018 will save native birds from extinction and increase by millions the numbers of endangered seabirds on South Georgia. The absence of rodents will allow seabirds to return to their traditional nesting sites.
We baited in 2011, 2013 and again in 2015. Up to 2018 we were actively engaged in carefully monitoring the baited sites which resulted in the island being officially declared rodent-free in May 2018. The 2017 Islands Invasives conference was held at Dundee University in 2017 to share experience and results among the community. We are now supporting Biosecurity measures to prevent reinfestation. Read more about our Habitat Restoration Project…
Cultural Heritage Projects
South Georgia Museum
We raise funds for upgrading the museum buildings and planning for future cultural heritage projects.
Museum curator: Funding a professional curator for the South Georgia Museum while continuing to offer internships to curatorial graduates for work experience.
Grytviken and Museum expansion: Developing the ground floor of The Main Store, a whaling-era building, to show visitors what early 20th century working life was like, both on and around this remote 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.
Sir Ernest Shackleton
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 artefacts associated with his time on the island.
Shackleton 2022 Exhibition: This tribute to Ernest Shackleton will be on display in South Georgia with travel-ready capability.
SGHT is hosting an international art competition; the chosen design will become a permanent part of Grytviken. Artists will be asked to create an interpretation that celebrates the recolonization of whales, seals, seabirds and plant life at South Georgia.
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…