John T. Willis

Thursday, December 31, 2009

South Georgia Island and the South Sandwich Islands

Anthony de la Roche, a London merchant, first sighted the Island of South Georgia in 1675. In 1775, Captain James Cook circumnavigated this island, made the first landing, claimed the territory for the Kingdom of Great Britain, and named it "The Isle of Georgia," in honor of King George III. Throughout the 19th century, South Georgia was a sealers' base and, in the 20th century became a whalers' base until whaling ended in the 1960s. In 1904, the Norwegian Carl Anton Larsen first land-based whaling station, and first permanent habitation, was established at Grytviken. It operated through his Argentine Fishing Company, and this station remained in operation until 1965. In the early 1900s, a church and a museum were established at Grytviken. Vagabond Argentinians captured Grytviken for a time from England in the 1980s, but England soon regained this region.

Captain James Cook discovered the southern eight islands of the Sandwich Islands Group in 1775. Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen discovered the northern three islands in 1819. Great Britain secured these islands, but lost them briefly to Argentina, only to resume them again.

All of these islands are remote, jagged, isolated, and dark. Only special stations have ever lived on these dismal islands. But through the years, people have been attracted to these islands by fishing, tourism, and beautiful postage stamps, which have brought great revenue into the British government.

Vegetation is limited to grasses, mosses, lichens, ferns, and a few other small flowering plants. There are not trees or shrubs. South Georgia Island supports a great number of sea birds, including albatross, a large colony of King Penguins and penguins of various other species, petrels, shags, skuas, gulls, and terns. There is one songbird which is unique tot he archipelago--the South Georgie Pipit. Seals are frequent on the islands, and whales may be seen in the surrounding waters. There are no native land mammals, although reindeer, introduced early in the 20th century, live on South Georgia, along with rats and mice.

South Georgia Island and the Sandwich Islands are another part of God's world. Very few people have every lived in this remote part of the world, because of its dismal environment. But God is there. And many of his creatures live there. I hope YOU appreciate these islands. God has put them there for some reason, even when we do not know this.

Share YOUR thoughts and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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