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May 2022

This months blog has been written by Patrick Lurcock. Pat worked as a Government Officer for South Georgia and since retiring from that role, he now regularly works as part of the museum team.

Object Title: Map of the Falkland Island Dependencies. Annotated, made by Tony Bomford. 1:200,000 Directorate of Overseas Surveys Map 610, T. Bomford

Object Number: 1998.6.294

South Georgia Survey Expedition Map
This object is a map of South Georgia, inset with two photographs and annotated with sledge routes across the island by Tony Bomford.

Tony presented the map to the museum in 1998. He was the surveyor in a team that undertook a number of mapping expeditions of the island in the early 1950s.  The expeditions were led by Duncan Carse and were called the South Georgia Surveys. Before that there was no reliable map of the interior of the island. Mapping concentrated on the needs of mariners, starting with Capt. Cook in 1775. Early charts were significantly improved by the Discovery Investigations; a project that spent decades from the 1920s investigating the biology and ecology of the whales and their prey. The South Georgia Surveys were done over three summer seasons. Carse and his teams worked on a low budget, arranging lifts to and from the island with the whaling industry cargo vessels, and around the island on the sealing and whaling vessels. Without the budget for a support vessel of their own, they had to be land-based. They carried out long sledge journeys up and down the island. The gear they used was much heavier than would be used now, and there was no GPS – just good old-fashioned sextants, theodolites and plane tables to be hauled manually through South Georgia’s often-difficult terrain. The interior had never been properly mapped, so on occasion they did not know whether a route would even be feasible.This map is the result of all that work. It was published by the Directorate of Overseas surveys (DOS). They published two series; this is the single-sheet 1:200,000 scale map, and there was also a three-sheet 1:100,000 scale edition. These were used for half a century until the British Antarctic Survey’s mapping unit created digital maps in 2004.

This copy of the map has been overlaid with overland routes used by the surveys, annotated by Tony Bomford. The surveys created a need for nearly 200 new place names, including a dozen or so named for the team members, such as Mount Carse, Bomford Peak, Mount Roots, Price Glacier and Trendall Crag. In the grand tradition of exploration, places were also named in recognition of assistance that had been given – Diaz Cove for the sealer Dias that helped move the teams around; the Graae Glacier, flowing SW into Trollhul, was named after Mogens Graae of Denmark, who made the sledges for the Surveys; the Hindle Gacier was named after Edward Hindle (1886-1973), British zoologist, who as Honorary Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society assisted the Surveys (replacing its previous name, the Bruce Glacier, for WS Bruce the Scottish explorer and scientist).

Other items in the Museum Collection that illustrate the Surveys include Kevin Walton’s tent, Tony Bomford’s watch, Tom Price’s sleeping bag and primus stove, and Duncan Carse’s mittens. They are on display in the Fullerton Room, and tell us more of the story of these incredible surveys, undertaken in the days before Goretex, lightweight equipment, or satellite-aided photography, navigation and communication.

Fullerton Room display
The South Georgia Surveys are documented in books by team members Tom Price (‘Travail so Gladly Spent’, Ernest Press 2000) and Alec Trendall (‘Putting South Georgia on the Map’, self-published 2011).