Any journey to South Georgia is a bit of an epic, and this year proved to be no different! Setting off from Brize Norton, Oxford, in the wee small hours of a late-September morning, were Curator Jayne, Retail Manager Lauren and SGHT Director SG Deirdre. First stop – the Falkland Islands.
This year, for the first time in a long time, we broke up the 19 hour flight with a quick stop at Ascension Island. Ascension is similar to South Georgia in that it is a British Overseas Territory, is very remote, and has incredible wildlife; but there the comparison stops! With the temperature pushing 25 degrees Celsius, we all tried to absorb as much Vitamin D as possible, before reboarding the flight and continuing on to the Falkland Islands.
From here, we boarded the South Georgia Government’s Fishery Patrol Vessel Pharos SG for what would prove to be a foggy 5-day crossing to South Georgia! With not a huge amount to see out of the window, some of the team resorted to knitting, or listening to audio books on the ship’s bridge.
However, on arrival at South Georgia, we were finally treated to spectacular views of the island’s mountains, and a glimpse of our ‘home’ for the next 6 months – Grytviken Whaling Station. For all three of us, it is a sight we have seen before, but that makes it no less special, and we couldn’t wait to get ashore.
As the museum is closed over the winter, the first task of the season is to ‘de-winterise’ and get ready to welcome our first visitors. This year, we arrived the day before our first ship, so we had to move fast! After opening blinds, sweeping floors and clearing snow, we were delighted to welcome the passengers of Magellan Explorer as our first visitors of the 2023-24 season.
With only a few scattered ship visits for the rest of October, we took the opportunity to dive in to some other tasks. Jayne completed all of our start-of-season environmental checks – checking temperature and humidity fluctuations over the winter and recording the results from our light monitoring cards. Meanwhile, Lauren and Deirdre biosecured all of the newly arrived cargo for the museum and SGHT shop – everything from fluffy penguins to toilet cleaner!
At the end of October, we were pleased to finally welcome our remaining team members – Helen (Curatorial Intern) and Bodil (Museum Assistant). With our team at full-strength, we are now ready to welcome an anticipated 4000 visitors on cruise ships in November!