South Georgia Island

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The Island of South Georgia lies in the South Atlantic sea, about 800 miles (1280 Km) east south east of the Falkland Islands. It is about 100miles (160Km) long and lies on a roughly North West to South East line, 37 degs West, 54.5degs South, approximately the same latitude south as Sheffield in England is north. The island was first sighted as early as 1700 by Captain Edmond Halley on board the Merchant vessel Paramour.

He encountered bad weather and probably did not realize just what lay through the fog. In 1756, the Spaniard Gregorio Jerez on board Leon also came close to the island in bad weather. It is almost certain that he saw the land mass but the first landing and exploration took place in 1775 when Captain James Cook on board HMS Resolution arrived at the island.
South Georgia
On 17th January that year, at what is now known as Possession Bay, he claimed it on behalf of the then King, George III. Cook described the island as: "Lands doomed by nature to perpetual frigidness: never to feel the warmth of the sun's rays; whose horrible and savage aspect I have not words to describe".

Cook, a native of Whitby in Yorkshire, England was an accomplished cartographer and was the first to accurately map the island. In his reports he mentioned the number of seals that lived on the island and by 1786 the first sealing expedition had taken place. There were two main peaks in sealing on the island, the first between 1786 and 1802 and the second between 1814 and 1823. Seals were hunted to the point of near extinction but recovery of the fur seal has been good and there are now said to be 1,555,000 of them on the island, about 96% of the world population. There are also believed to be in the region of 110,000 breeding female elephant seals, producing 54% of the world pup population.*

*Source: Environmental Management Plan For South Georgia, a public consultation paper, issued by British Antarctic Survey, at the request of the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, dated February 1999.