South Georgia Timeline
First sighting of South Georgia by Antoine de la Roché, a London merchant.
Second sighting by the Spanish ship León; the island is named ‘Isla de San Pedro’.
First landing is made by Captain James Cook on HMS Resolution. He claims the island for His Britannic Majesty, King George III.
First British sealing vessel, Lord Hawkesbury, obtains a full cargo of fur seal pelts.
First American sealing vessels, Polly and Nancy, take fur seal pelts back to the United States and China.
Russian Captain, Thaddeus von Bellingshausen, in command of Mirnyi and Vostok, sails along the southwest coast.
Captain James Weddell, a British sealer and explorer on the brig Jane, visits the island whilst returning from an expedition to the Weddell Sea.
Great Britain establishes government arrangements for South Georgia by Letter Patent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whaling station established at Husvik.
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.
Reindeer are first introduced by C A Larsen.
The Administrative Station is established at King Edward Point with the building of a new Magistrate’s residence. Whaling station built at Stromness.
Visit of the brig Daisy, the last old-style whaling and sealing expedition. American naturalist, Robert Cushman Murphy, makes observations and collections of birds.
Female Blue Whale, 34.1m in length, is caught and processed at Grytviken. It is the largest whale recorded at South Georgia.
Church built at Grytviken and consecrated on Christmas Day.
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.
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.
Whaling station built at Prince Olav Harbour.
Sir Ernest Shackleton dies aboard Quest whilst the vessel is at anchor in Grytviken Cove. He is later buried in the whalers’ cemetery.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
The fur seal population is discovered to have dropped to approximately 500 animals.
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.