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South Georgia Timeline

1675 First sighting of South Georgia by Antoine de la Roché, a London merchant.

1756 Second sighting by the Spanish ship León; the island is named Isla de San Pedro.

Woodcut of Possession Bay
Woodcut of Possession Bay

1775 Captain Cook makes the first landing and claims the island for His Britannic Majesty King George III.

1786-87 The first British sealing vessel, Lord Hawkesbury, obtains a full cargo of fur seal pelts.

1792-93 Polly and Nancy, the first of many American sealing vessels, take fur seal pelts back to the United States and China.

1819 Russian Captain Thaddeus von Bellingshausen, in command of Mirnyi and Vostok, sails along the southwest coast.

James Weddell
James Weddell

1823 Captain James Weddell, a British sealer and explorer, visits the island when returning from an expedition to the Weddell Sea.

1882-83 The first land-based scientific expedition sets up a station at Moltke Harbour in Royal Bay. German scientists spend 13 months on the island as part of the International Polar Year. They arrive on Moltke, the first steam-powered ship to visit the island. The expedition sets up the first telegraph system and take the first photographs.

Bust of C. A. Larsen
Bust of C. A. Larsen

1894 Whilst on a whaling and sealing expedition, the Norwegian Captain Carl Anton Larsen (C. A. Larsen), with his ship Jason, reports the vast whale stocks in the area.

1902-03 The Swedish South Polar Expedition on Antarctic visits to make surveys and scientific collections. The Captain is C. A. Larsen who later loses the ship in the pack ice off the Antarctic Peninsula. After rescue, he obtains funding from financiers in Argentina to establish Compañia Argentina de Pesca for whaling at South Georgia.

1904 Captain C. A. Larsen establishes a whaling station at Grytviken. This is the first whaling station built in the southern hemisphere and marks the beginning of the modern Antarctic whaling industry and start of permanent human occupation of South Georgia. Six more stations follow within the next ten years.

1908 New British “Letters Patent” consolidate earlier territorial claims, and include South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in the Falkland Islands Dependencies. An anchorage for a whaling factory ship is established at Godthul.

1909 James Innes Wilson is appointed first Magistrate and is housed at Grytviken. The first official mails are despatched. Whaling begins at Leith Harbour and Ocean Harbour.

1910 A whaling station is established at Husvik.

1911 A German expedition aboard the Deutschland spends six weeks at South Georgia before heading further south. They re-open the 1882 German station at Moltke Harbour for four weeks.

Reindeer at Stromness
Reindeer at Stromness

1911 Reindeer are first introduced by C. A. Larsen.

1912 The Administrative Station is established at King Edward Point with the building of a Magistrate’s residence. In 1913 a customs shed is completed and modified the next year to include a jail. A whaling station is built at Stromness.

Brig Daisy
Brig Daisy

1912-13 Visit of the brig Daisy, the last old-style whaling and sealing expedition. American naturalist, Robert Cushman Murphy, makes observations and collections of birds.

1913 The Church at Grytviken is built and consecrated on Christmas Day.

1914 The Endurance, with Sir Ernest Shackleton and 27 men of the Imperial Antarctic Expedition, spends a month in South Georgia prior to leaving on the ill-fated attempt to cross Antarctica.

1916 After sailing from Elephant Island in the ship’s boat, James Caird, Ernest Shackleton and five men reach the south coast. Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley walk across the unmapped and untrodden mountainous interior from King Haakon Bay to the whaling station at Stromness. Eventually all his men are rescued.

1917 A whaling station is built at Prince Olav Harbour.

1922 While at anchor at Grytviken, Sir Ernest Shackleton dies aboard Quest and is buried in the whalers’ cemetery.

1925 Using Captain Scott's old ship Discovery, the Discovery Investigations begin with the study of whales and oceanographic surveys in the Southern Ocean. The series of cruises lasts until 1951. Discovery House is built at King Edward Point as a laboratory and accommodation for scientists. The first proper surveys were made of much of the coast of the island.

1928-29 The Kohl-Larsen Expedition studies wildlife, makes collections and surveys many inland features. Dr Ludwig Kohl had been on board the Deutschland as ships doctor and had married Margit Larsen, one of C. A. Larsen’s daughters. Albert Benitz prepared the first commercial film of the island.

1931-32 Due to a combination of the world financial crisis and an overproduction of whale oil all whaling stations except Grytviken close for one season. Prince Olav Harbour closed permanently and Husvik did not re-open until 1945.

South Georgia Surveys display
South Georgia Surveys display

1951-57 Four expeditions led by Duncan Carse map South Georgia, resulting in a huge increase in the knowledge of the interior of island. The first complete map is produce which was still in use until recently. The fur seal population was estimated to be just 500 in 1952.

1964-65 A Combined Services Expedition reaches the summit of the highest mountain, Mt Paget 9,625 feet (2934 metres), and makes the first crossing of the Allardyce Range. They also follow Shackleton’s route across the island for the first time.

1965 The land-based whaling industry finishes with the closure of Leith Station. 175,250 whales had been killed in the waters around South Georgia since 1904.

1969 The Falkland Island Dependencies Magistrate and his support staff leave South Georgia. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) takes over at King Edward Point with the Base Commander becoming Magistrate.

1971 The British Antarctic Survey establishes a permanent scientific station at Bird Island. Fur seals and birds are the main research targets.

1980 The Government adopts the Convention of the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLAR). This is crucial to the preservation of fish stocks.

1982 South Georgia is invaded by Argentine troops. British Antarctic Survey personnel are taken prisoner along with 22 Royal Marines left by HMS Endurance to defend King Edward Point. The occupation lasts for 22 days until British forces liberate the island and garrison it for the next 19 years.

1985 South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands become a separate British Overseas Territory.

1991 Christian Salvesen and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office carry out the first environmental clean up of the whaling stations.

1992 A whaling museum is established by Nigel Bonner, which later develops into the comprehensive South Georgia Museum.

1993 The South Georgia Government declares a 200 nautical miles zone around the islands. Permits, issued by a Government Officer, are required before fishing may take place in this area, and it is regularly patrolled.

1998 A major asbestos problem is recognized with 3000 cubic yards of material at Grytviken alone.

2000 South Georgia Government publishes an Environmental Management Plan.

2000-01 The British Antarctic Survey builds a new scientific station at King Edward Point and operates it on behalf of the Government of South Georgia. Many of the old buildings are removed.

2001 The British Military withdraw but maintain regular patrols.

Dias being raised
Dias being raised

2003/5 There is a major environmental clean up at Grytviken; this includes the removal of asbestos, corrugated iron sheets and unstable buildings. Fuel oil is removed from the Albatros, Dias and the vessels are hauled ashore.

2006 South Georgia Heritage Trust assumes management of the South Georgia Museum.

The Royal visit
The Royal visit

2009 Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visits the island in her role as Patron of the South Georgia Heritage Trust. This was the first royal visit since her father, The Duke of Edinburgh, visited in 1957. She visits again in 2016 as a guest of GSGSSI.

2011 Several major habitat restorations programmes begin with the trial phase of the SGHT's rodent eradication project. The rodent infested areas of the island are aerially baited over three phases lasting into 2015.

2013 The start of the GSGSSI project to eradicate introduced reindeer. An ongoing project to eradicate and/or control invasive plant continues.