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South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands Fact Sheet

|   Geographic Location    |   History    |   Climate    |   Population    |   Economic Overview    |   Administration   |

|   Falkland Islands    |   British Antarctic Territory   |
Geographic Location

The island of South Georgia lies approximately 800 miles (1,280km) east south-east of the Falkland Islands, 54 30 S, 37 00 W. It is some 100 miles (160km) long and on average about 20 miles (32km) wide. The north coast of South Georgia has several large bays, which provide good anchorage; reindeer, introduced early in this century, live on South Georgia.

The South Sandwich Islands are a further 400 miles (640km) to the south-east of South Georgia. The islands are volcanic, ice-bound in winter and difficult of approach. They are uninhabited and, like South Georgia, very rich in wildlife.

Only the coastal fringes support vegetation, mainly in the form of tussock grass. The island is home to very large populations of elephant and fur seals, four species of penguin and many species of seabird. Reindeer were introduced in about 1910 by Norwegian whaling companies.

South Georgia is extremely mountainous, and over half the island is permanently covered by snow or ice. The north-east, leeward side of the island offers a number of safe anchorages.




In 1775, Captain Cook made the first landing on South Georgia and claimed it in the name of King George III. In 1904, the first whaling station was established at Grytviken and in 1909 Britain appointed a resident magistrate. The whaling industry collapsed in the mid-1960s and the whaling stations were abandoned. In 1982, the island was briefly occupied by Argentine forces. Up to 1985. both South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands were dependencies of the Falkland Islands, but from that date were constituted as a separate colony of Britain. Concern over unregulated fishing led in 1993 to the establishment of a maritime zone of 200 miles around the islands and to the introduction in August 1993 of a regime for the conservation and management of the fisheries in the zone.



Variable, with mostly westerly winds throughout the year, interspersed with periods of calm; nearly all precipitation falls as snow.



No indigenous population

Note: there is a small military garrison on South Georgia, and the British Antarctic Survey has a biological station on Bird Island; the South Sandwich Islands are uninhabited


Economic Overview

Some fishing takes place in adjacent waters. There is a potential source of income from harvesting fin fish and krill. The islands receive income from postage stamps produced in the UK. In 1988 estimated revenues is $291,777 while expenditures is about $451,000.




Dependent territory of the UK, also claimed by Argentina; administered from London by a civil commissioner who is also the governor of the Falkland Islands; Grytviken on South Georgia is the garrison town.


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