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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; they name the island 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, leaves with a full cargo of fur seal pelts.

1792-93 Polly and Nancy, the first of many American sealing ships, take fur seals 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 arrives and a station is set up at Moltke Harbour in Royal Bay. German scientists spend 13 months as part of the International Polar Year. They travel with the first steam-powered ship to visit the island, Moltke, set 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 looses the ship in the pack ice off the Antarctic Peninsula. After rescue, he obtains funding from ex-patriots living in Argentina to start whaling operations in South Georgia with Compañia Argentina de Pesca.

1904 Captain C. A. Larsen establishes a whaling station at Grytviken. This is the beginning of the modern Antarctic whaling industry and of permanent human occupation. Six more stations follow within the next ten years.

1908 New British “Letters Patent” consolidate earlier territorial claims, including South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, as part of the Falkland Island Dependencies. A whaling station is established at Godthul Harbour.

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 before heading further south. They re-open the 1888 German station 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 new 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 The last old-style sealing expedition visits with the brig Daisy. American naturalist, Robert Cushman Murphy, makes observations and collections, a sketch map of the Bay of Isles, and takes early photographs of the island.

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

1914 The Endurance, with Sir Ernest Shackleton and 27 other men on board spend a month in South Georgia prior to leaving on their ill-fated expedition.

1916 After sailing from Elephant Island in the ship’s boat, James Caird, Ernest Shackleton and five men reach the south coast. Together with Tom Crean and Frank Worsley, he walks across the unmapped and untrodden mountains 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 later buried in the whalers’ cemetery.

1925 Discovery Investigations begin with oceanographic and hydrological 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 whale biologists.

1928-29 The scientific Kohl-Larsen expedition surveys many inland features and produces first maps. Dr Ludwig Kohl had been on board the Deutschland as ships doctor. Margit Kohl-Larsen was one of C. A. Larsen’s daughters. Albert Benitz prepared the first commercial film of the island.

1931-32 Due to a combination the world financial crisis and an overproduction of whale oil most whaling stations are halted temporarily. Price 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 survey the interior parts of South Georgia, resulting in a huge increase in the knowledge of these areas and the production of the only complete map which is still in use to this day. It was discovered that the fur seal population had dropped to approximately 500 fur seals in 1952.

1964-65 A Combined Services Expedition reaches the summit of the highest mountain, Mt Paget 9,625 feet (2934 metres) and make 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.

1972 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 after a battle. 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 South Sandwich Islands become a separate British Overseas Territory.

1991 Christian Salvesen and the Foreign and Commonwealth office attempt the first clean up of Grytviken Whaling Station.

1992 A whaling museum is established by Nigel Bonner, which later develops into the comprehensive South Georgia Museum. Six small cruise ships visit the island in 1992-93 summer season.

1993 The South Georgia Government declares a 200 nautical miles zone around the islands. Permits, issued by a Marine Officer, are regularly 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 applied fisheries 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 still maintain regular patrols.

Dias being raised
Dias being raised

2003/5 Major environmental clean up at Grytviken. This included the removal of asbestos, tin sheets and unstable buildings. The oil was removed from the Albatros, Dias and Petrel and the Albatros and Dias were hauled ashore.

2006 South Georgia Heritage Trust assumes Museum management.

The Royal visit
The Royal visit

2009 Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visits the Island in her role as patron of South Georgia Heritage Trust. This was the first royal visit since her father, The Duke of Edinburgh, visited in 1957.