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’.

1775

First landing is made by Captain James Cook on HMS Resolution. He claims the island for His Britannic Majesty, King George III.

1786-87

First British sealing vessel, Lord Hawkesbury, obtains a full cargo of fur seal pelts.

1792-93

First American sealing vessels, Polly and Nancy, 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.

1823

Captain James Weddell, a British sealer and explorer on the brig Jane, visits the island whilst returning from an expedition to the Weddell Sea.

1843

Great Britain establishes government arrangements for South Georgia by Letter Patent.

1882-83

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

1894

Norwegian Captain, Carl Anton Larsen (C A Larsen), reports vast whale stocks in the area. He is on a whaling and sealing expedition on Jason.

1902-03

Captain C A Larsen visits again on the Swedish South Polar Expedition, on Antarctic. They make surveys and scientific collections. Larsen 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 the first whaling station at Grytviken. This is the first whaling station built in the Southern Hemisphere, marking 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

British Letters Patent consolidate earlier territorial claims to establish South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands as part of the Falkland Island Dependencies. Whaling station is established at Godthul Harbour.

1909

James Innes Wilson appointed first Magistrate of South Georgia, and is housed at Grytviken. First official mails are despatched. Whaling begins at Leith Harbour and Ocean Harbour.

1910

Whaling station established at Husvik.

1911

A German expedition, aboard the Deutschland, spend six weeks at South Georgia before heading further south. They re-open the 1888 German station for four weeks.

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. Whaling station built at Stromness.

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.

1912

Female Blue Whale, 34.1m in length, is caught and processed at Grytviken. It is the largest whale recorded at South Georgia.

1913

Church built at Grytviken and consecrated on Christmas Day.

1914

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

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

1917

Whaling station built at Prince Olav Harbour.

1922

Sir Ernest Shackleton dies aboard Quest whilst the vessel is at anchor in Grytviken Cove. He is later buried in the whalers’ cemetery.

1925

The Discovery Investigations begin with oceanographic and hydrological surveys in the Southern Ocean. The series of cruises lasts until 1951. Discovery House built at King Edward Point as a laboratory, and accommodation for scientists.

1928-29

The Kohl-Larsen expedition surveys many inland features and produces the first maps. They create the first commercial film of the island entitled ‘Roah Roah’.

1931-32

Due to a combination of the world financial crisis and an overproduction of whale oil, most whaling stations are halted temporarily. Price Olav Harbour closes permanently. Husvik does not re-open until 1945.

1951-57

First complete map of the island is the result of the South Georgia Surveys. Four expeditions are led by Duncan Carse, to survey the interior parts of South Georgia.

1952

The fur seal population is discovered to have dropped to approximately 500 animals.

1957

First Royal Visit. HRH Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, visits during a round-the-world cruise on the royal yacht, Britannia.

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) start studies at Bird Island. Fur seals and birds are the main research targets.

1960

Husvik whaling station closes.

1961

Stromness whaling station closes.

1964-65

The Combined Services Expedition reaches the summit of the highest mountain, Mt Paget (2,934 metres), and makes the first crossing of the Allardyce Range. They also follow Shackleton’s route across the island for the first time.

1964

Grytviken whaling station closes.

1965

Land-based whaling ends on South Georgia, with the closure of the last working factory at Leith Station. A total of 175,250 whales were killed in the waters around South Georgia since 1904.

1969

The Falkland Island Dependencies Magistrate and his staff leave South Georgia. BAS take over at King Edward Point, with the Base Commander becoming Magistrate.

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. BAS personnel are taken prisoner, along with 22 Royal Marines left by HMS Endurance to defend King Edward Point. The occupation lasts for 22 days. British Armed 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.

1990

Resumption of a civilian administrative function on the island with the appointment of the first Marine Officer.

1991

Christian Salvesen and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office undertake the first clean-up of Grytviken Whaling Station.

1992

Whaling museum established. It later develops into the comprehensive South Georgia Museum.

1993

Maritime Zone (200-nautical-miles around the Territory) declared. Fishing within the zone requires a permit.

2000

Environmental Management Plan for South Georgia published.

2000-01

New station built at King Edward Point. It is operated by BAS, on behalf of the Government of South Georgia (GSGSSI).

2001

The British Military withdraw, but still maintain regular patrols.

2003-5

Major environmental clean-up at Grytviken is undertaken.

2004

Hydroelectric power station installed at Grytviken.

2009

Second Royal Visit. HRH The Princess Royal visits in her role as Patron of the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT).

2011

First of several major habitat restoration programmes begins with the trial phase of the SGHT's rodent eradication project. The island is declared free of rats in 2018. Between 2013 and 2017 the government eradicates reindeer; efforts to control or eradiate introduced plants is on-going.

2012

One of the world’s largest Marine Protected Areas declared in South Georgia waters. It covers an area of 1.24 million km2.

2016

Third Royal Visit. HRH The Princess Royal visits as a guest of GSGSSI.