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South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
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South Atlantic islands : South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are two groups of sub-antarctic islands in the South Atlantic Ocean east of the southern tip of South America, north of Antarctica. The islands are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom that are administered from the Falkland Islands but are also claimed by Argentina.
The islands include:
While whalers and sealers built settlements on these islands, the only permanent settlements today are at the various research bases. A "city" in these islands may consist of no more than five people during the winter months.
South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands are rugged islands, rising out of the Southern Ocean. There are noe indiginous residents, very few people live here and only those who really want to make the trip end up coming.
The islands have played a minor role in history, including a brief occupation by Argentina during the Falklands war (the Falkland Islands themselves are 1000km to the west). One famous visitor is Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, who used the islands as a staging post for his 1914 expion south. He is in fact buried in the small settlement of Grytviken.
While Argentina maintains a formal claim to the islands (much like the Falklands), the British military presence came to an end in March 2001. Today, the King Edward Point station houses a permanent group of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, which also has a biological station on Bird Island.
These islands are one of the most remote places in the world, with the only access being by sea. The southern ocean is one of the roughest in the world with storms that can make even the most hardened sailor feel ill.
Only competent mountaineers need try and travel overland, because of the glaciers. The best way to get around is by boat. If you have time come by yacht - specialist charterers operate out of Ushuaia and the Falkands. If time is tight come on a cruise ship. There are around 40 visits a year between November and March. In winter the snow is down to sea level and cross-country skis, or snowshoes, are the way to get about. In summer you can walk normally, at least down near the coast.
Should you find anyone to talk to, the language most commonly used is English. More than likely, however, your only companions will be those who come with you, so you can feel free to converse in any language you choose.
There is a small gift shop at Grytviken which will accept Falkland pounds, British pounds, American dollars, Euros. Most large ships visiting the islands will sell basic supplies (razors, shampoo, hats, snacks), but otherwise it is unlikely you will have any use for whatever money you bring with you.
Anyone wishing to sleep ashore overnight must have their proposal vetted by the Government's Expions Advisory Panel. This process will cost you a thousand pounds per expion. As a result, nearly all visitors to the islands sleep aboard ship at night.
Camping may be permitted in the Grytviken area without going through the expensive (£1,000 GBP) expion application vetting process. But you will have to have transport, medical backup etc arranged.
Respect wildlife. It lives here, we don't. Breeding animals in particular are prone to disturbance.
During the summer mail may be left in Grytviken, and it is picked up whenever either a supply ship or a fishery patrol ship arrives - usually around once a month. The only other option for contacting the outside world is with a satellite phone, which most boats will make available at a charge of between $2 and $5 per minute.
There is no public Internet, phone, email access available on shore.