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 Letters 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 their ship Deutschland, spends 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 King Edward Cove. He is later buried in Grytviken 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. 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. Prince 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.

Nigel Bonner, the government Seal Inspector and Naturalist, made the first census of fur seals at Bird Island. 5,100 pups were counted.



Lance Tickell leads a series of expeditions to Bird Island to study albatrosses.

Husvik whaling station closes.


Stromness whaling station closes.


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.


Grytviken whaling station closes.


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


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


The government adopts the Convention of the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLAR). This is crucial to the preservation of fish stocks.


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.


South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands become a separate British Overseas Territory.


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


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


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


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


Environmental Management Plan for South Georgia published.


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


The British Military withdraw, but still maintain regular patrols.


Major environmental clean-up at Grytviken is undertaken.


Hydroelectric power station installed at Grytviken.


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


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.


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


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