King Edward Point lies at the entrance to King Edward Cove, a small bay within Cumberland East Bay. Located midway along South Georgia it is approximately 1,400km (860 miles) from the Falkland Islands. Access is by boat or ship-based helicopter. The station focuses on appliled fisheries research and supports the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
Typically King Edward Point station has 22 people living on station during the summer months and 12 people on station throughout the winter. Although the station can accommodate nearly 40 people, numbers are kept to a more manageable level.
BAS staff are employed on contracts varying between 16 and 26 months. They consist of:
two fisheries scientists
two boating officers
two technicians (electrical and mechanical)
a Station Leader
Administration and status
South Georgia is administered by the GSGSSI. Based in Stanley, Falkland Islands, the Government is represented locally at King Edward Point by a Government Officer. BAS staff at King Edward Point provides logistic support assisting the Government Officer to carry out their duties plus the delivery of an agreed science plan.
The island of South Georgia is approximately 170km long and varies in width from two to 40km. Its long axis lies in a north-west to south-east direction.
Surrounded by cold waters originating in Antarctica, South Georgia has a harsher climate than expected from its latitude. More than half of the island is covered by permanent ice with many large glaciers flowing from the highest peaks making a sharp contrast to the green coastal belt of vegetation. The main mountain range, the Allardyce range, has its highest point at Mount Paget (2,960 metres).
Protected by the surrounding mountains, King Edward Point generally receives drier and calmer weather than that of much of South Georgia. Temperatures vary from −15°C to +20°C and although winter and summer seasons are well defined, snow can fall on any day of the year. The island is typically snow covered from May to October.
South Georgia has abundant populations of seabirds, including penguins. Several sites are within walking distance of King Edward Point. During the summer the beach in front of the station becomes a breeding ground for elephant seals. The Barff peninsula directly across Cumberland East Bay is a favourite area for King Edward Point staff to take recreational travel trips to view the king penguins at St Andrew’s Bay.
BAS policy is to minimise our impact on the environment in which we work (see the BAS Environment Office). We take this responsibility seriously at King Edward Point and have introduced control measures, policy and procedures initiated by the GSGSSI and BAS. The BAS policies are in line with the GSGSSI Environmental Charter.
Introduced accidentally from sealing and whaling ships, rats were once common at King Edward Point and around mainland South Georgia where they have devastated populations of ground-nesting birds.
South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) implemented phase 1 of a rodent eradication programme in March 2011, removing rats from areas surrounding King Edward Point. Aerial dispersal of bait ensures complete coverage of inaccessible areas. The programme will continue in future years to remove all rodents from South Georgia.
Preventing introduction of other non-native species
The sub-Antarctic climate of South Georgia is mild enough for foreign plants and animal species to survive. Dandelions, cow parsley and other non-native plants are already populating areas around the derelict whaling stations.
At King Edward Point, every care is taken to reduce the risk of further spreading these introduced species to other parts of the island and also ensure we do not introduce new alien species.
Fresh produce is inspected in a purpose-built secure building and washed upon delivery, and any non-native species found are preserved and returned for identification. New protocols ensure that before arrival, visitors scrub their footwear and inspect their clothing, particularly velcro in waterproofs to remove any visual signs of seeds and soils.
Everyone takes their turn to do the cleaning, cook evening meals and make bread on a daily rota. Traditionally, a more formal three-course meal is prepared for Saturday evenings.
Comprehensive training in navigation and search and rescue techniques is provided initially in the UK and continued upon arrival. This is essential in helping ensure the safety of station personnel. The doctor provides first aid training and more advanced training in the use of the medical equipment.
Remote medical support is available immediately upon request at all times. The team make their own entertainment: anything from discos, barbecues to half-marathon running.
The UK government established a laboratory at King Edward Point in 1924–25 as part of the Discovery Expedition. It built Discovery House, used initially for accommodation and later as a store and workshop.
In 1950, the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey took over ownership of the station. BAS operated the station from 1969 until the outbreak of the Falklands conflict in 1982.
On 3 April 1982, the island was invaded by Argentine troops. Thirteen BAS staff present at the station were forcibly removed to the Argentine ship Bahia Paraiso. A further nine BAS scientists and two photographers from Anglia TV were undertaking fieldwork at the time of the invasion and remained at various field huts on the island until it was liberated on 25 April 1982. A British Military garrison occupied King Edward Point from then until 2001.
On 22 March 2001, the Commissioner for the GSGSSI opened the new applied fisheries research station at King Edward Point, South Georgia. The opening of the purpose-built laboratory and accommodation facilities, which coincided with the withdrawal of the small British garrison from South Georgia, marked the return of biological research to King Edward Point after an absence of nearly 20 years.
Commissioned research on sustainable fisheries and support for an administrative presence on the island on behalf of the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI).
BAS scientists are undertaking a programme of scientific research at the new facility under contract to the GSGSSI, which is aimed at providing sound scientific advice to assist in the sustainable management of the valuable commercial fisheries around the island.
Around 20 vessels registered in a number of countries including the UK (Falkland Islands), Chile, Uruguay, Spain and South Africa are licensed each year by GSGSSI to fish within South Georgia’s 200-nautical-mile Maritime Zone.
Currently three species are exploited commercially from the cold rich waters around South Georgia. A longline fishery for the Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eliginoides) takes place during the austral winter. In the austral summer, pelagic trawlers take catches of the Mackerel icefish (Chamsocephalus gunnari). Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) are fished during the winter months as fishing grounds further south towards the Antarctic continent become icebound.
Exploratory fisheries for both stone crabs (Paralomis spp.) and squid (Martialia hyadesi) have recently taken place within the South Georgia Maritime Zone and it is thought that unexploited stocks of these species have the potential to support new commercial fisheries.
Fishing activity around South Georgia is regulated by internationally adopted measures agreed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). In contrast to other multilateral fisheries conventions, CCAMLR is concerned not only with the regulation of fishing, but also has a mandate to conserve the ecosystem. This ecosystem approach, which considers the whole Southern Ocean to be a suite of interlinked systems, distinguishes CCAMLR from other multilateral fisheries conventions.
BAS scientists at King Edward Point are carrying out strategic research on many aspects of the biology and ecology of both the targeted resource species as well as dependent and by-catch species. This work will assist with the stock assessments and population modelling of target species currently conducted for the GSGSSI by the Marine Resources Assessment Group Ltd (MRAG) in London and complement existing research conducted by BAS biologists in the Southern Ocean.
Investigations at King Edward Point involve the analysis of specimens and data obtained from a number of sources. Collaboration with the CCAMLR scientific observer programme enables samples of target and by-catch species to be collected for analysis from the commercial fishery operating around South Georgia.
Field research sampling the spawning adult population and larval distribution and abundance of the Mackerel icefish (C.gunnari) within the bays around King Edward Point is conducted from the station’s workboat. In addition, fish surveys using chartered fishing or research vessels operating around South Georgia (such as the biennial trawl survey currently undertaken by collaboration between MRAG and BAS) involve scientists from the King Edward Point laboratory.
Such surveys are undertaken to assess the standing stock of icefish and juvenile toothfish but are also used to provide information and specimens of other target species such as stone crabs and non-target species such as skates, rays and grenadiers.
In February 2011, the British Geological Survey (BGS) re-established the King Edward Point magnetic observatory. It extends the magnetic observations made by BAS from 1975 to 1982. The BGS observatory will plug a significant gap in the global network of magnetic observatories allowing better monitoring of the South Atlantic Anomaly and of changes occurring deep within the Earth.
June at King Edward Point was a varied month. It featured the most important celebrations of the Antarctic calendar, events of astronomical significance, and was punctuated by holidays, fishing vessels …
Outside my office window an elephant seal weaner (weaned pup) has propelled itself caterpillar fashion (it’s termed “humping”) across the fresh snowfall and unsuccessfully attempted to gnaw through the base …
The BAS team at King Edward Point consists of nine people. The Base Commander, Doctor, three Scientists, a Generator Mechanic, and Electrical Technician and two Boatmen. Our main accommodation block, …
Midwinter celebrations This month’s web page is mainly dedicated to our midwinter festivities held here over the week around midwinter’s day. There was a whole host of different activities including; …
End of summer approaches The Science team made a big catch: a Patagonian toothfish just over 1m in length. These fish are commercially fished in South Georgian waters and producing viable conservation …
South Georgia Patagonian toothfish fishery recertified with flying colours Following its five-yearly Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessment, the South Georgia Patagonian toothfish longline fishery has, for the third time, been …