King Edward Point Research Station, King Edward Point, Cumberland East Bay, South Georgia

Position
Lat. 54°16'59"S, Long. 36°30'0"W
Occupied
1909 to present. BAS 1969–82. The British army occupied a garrison on the island 1982–2001. BAS 2001–present.
Staff
Summer: 44, Winter: 12

King Edward Point is primarily a marine and  fisheries research station.   Owned by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) and operated by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) this facility provides critical research to support the management of the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area and the sustainable fisheries that are licensed by GSGSSI in this important location in the Southern Ocean.

Surrounded by mountains and glaciers the subantarctic island of South Georgia is an important haven for wildlife.  The waters surrounding the islands were declared as a sustainable use Marine Protected Area (MPA) in 2012 and research conducted here informs the management of the MPA and contributes to the broader management of the Southern Ocean, which is undertaken by the international treaty organisation, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) – CCAMLR plays a key role in regulating fisheries in the Southern Ocean and in minimising any ecosystem impacts of that fishing.  The waters around South Georgia are recognised as being among the most sustainably-managed in the world, with all the fisheries being certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.  In addition to its research activities on the island BAS also plays a key role in supporting GSGSSI Officers who are responsible for regulating fishing, tourism and other activities around South Georgia.

BAS staff regularly give science talks and presentations to the 10,000+ tourists, onboard cruise ships, who come to see the island’s wildlife and heritage sites each year.  This is a key part of BAS’s public engagement programme to highlight the importance and relevance of research for conservation and management.

Location

South Georgia is situated about 1,400km (860 miles) south-east of the Falkland Islands.  This mountainous and glaciated island is 170 km long and between 2 km and 40 km wide, with Mount Paget in the Allardyce Range reaching 2,960 m.

Located midway along South Georgia, King Edward Point Research Station lies at the entrance to King Edward Cove, a small bay within Cumberland East Bay. Access is by ship only.

King Edward Point Research Station, South Georgia.
King Edward Point Research Station, South Georgia.

Working at King Edward Point

In summer, between 20-40 people usually live at King Edward Point station. During the winter there are 10 staff.

The GSGSSI employs three Government Officers who live and work at King Edward Point on an overlapping rota.

BAS staff are employed on contracts of 17 months. They include: one fisheries scientist; one zoological field assistant (seals & penguins); two boating officers; two technicians (electrical and mechanical); a doctor and a Station Leader.

Administration and status

South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) is a UK Overseas Territory, administered by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI). Based at Stanley in the Falkland Islands, the Government is represented at King Edward Point by Government Officers.

BAS staff at King Edward Point provide logistic and boating support for the GSGSSI as well as delivering an agreed science plan.

Climate

Surrounded by cold waters originating in Antarctica, South Georgia’s climate is harsher than expected from its latitude. More than half of the island is permanently covered by ice, and many large glaciers flow from its highest peaks – a sharp contrast to the green coastal belt of vegetation.

Protected by the surrounding mountains, King Edward Point’s weather is usually drier and calmer than the rest of South Georgia. Temperatures vary from -15°C to +20°C and although winter and summer seasons are well defined, snow can fall at any time. The island is usually snow covered from May to October.

Wildlife

From gentoo, macaroni and king penguins, to giant petrels, elephant seals, pintail ducks and both sooty & wandering albatross, South Georgia is an important wildlife haven.

Together with South Sandwich islands, these are home to five million seals of four different species, and 65 million breeding birds of 30 different species including the world’s only subantarctic songbird, the endemic South Georgia pipit.

Eleven of the 30 species of breeding birds on South Georgia are listed as threatened or near-threatened by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

In summer, elephant seals and fur seals breed on the beach in front of the research station.

The waters around the islands are an important habitat for migrating whales, and are rich in fish and Antarctic krill – a key link in the Southern Ocean food web.

South Georgia has abundant populations of seabirds, including penguins. Several sites are within walking distance of King Edward Point.

Environmental protection

BAS policy is to minimise our impact on the environment in which we work. 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.

Habitat restoration

Rats were accidentally introduced to South Georgia by sealing and whaling ships, and have devastated populations of ground-nesting birds, including the South Georgia pipit.

In 2011, the South Georgia Heritage Trust embarked on the world’s largest rat eradication programme. By 2015, after three seasons of fieldwork, the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project laid its last load of bait.

The ambitious project took advantage of the fact that South Georgia’s rat populations are naturally divided by the island’s glaciers, allowing Team Rat (as it became known) to target specific peninsulas.

The team used helicopters to lay more than 800 loads of bait over 1,000 km2 and populations of the South Georgian pipit are already beginning to recover. The pipit’s song can now be heard on the Thatcher Peninsula for the first time in decades.

Reindeer, which were introduced to two peninsulas by Norwegian whalers for food and recreation, were also eradicated from the island during 2011-2015 in a project run by the GSGSSI.  The reindeer had caused significant damage to the island’s vegetation, including tussac grass, which is an important habitat for breeding birds.

Preventing introduction of other non-native species

The subantarctic 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 ensure no new alien species are introduced.

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 biosecurity 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.

Station life

Staff take turns to cook, clean and make bread. Traditionally, a more formal three-course meal is prepared for Saturday evenings.

To ensure their safety, station staff receive training in navigation and search and rescue techniques both in the UK and on arrival. The doctor provides first aid training and more advanced training on medical equipment. Remote medical support is  provided by the BAS Medical Unit in the UK.

The annual first call of cargo, food and general supplies occurs in November by one of the BAS ships. In addition the GSGSSI fisheries patrol vessel, Pharos SG, sails between the Falklands and South Georgia usually on a monthly basis, ensuring regular supplies of mail and fresh food. Note that there is no aircraft runway at King Edward Point.

The team makes its own entertainment – from hill walking, skiing, a half marathon, model yacht racing, film nights, and an annual entry to the Antarctic film festival.

Purpose

King Edward Point (KEP) Research Station is operated by BAS under an agreement with the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  The primary purpose of the station is to undertake research in support of the management of the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area, including commercial fisheries for toothfish, icefish and krill.

The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) reinvests revenue from fisheries and tourism into the science that underpins the long-term management of its natural resources.

Research

The primary role of the research conducted at King Edward Point is to provide sound scientific advice to assist in the management of the MPA, with a major focus being science to support the sustainable management of the valuable commercial fisheries around the islands. This work underpins the stock assessments and population modelling of target species conducted for the GSGSSI by the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and complements existing research conducted by BAS biologists in the Southern Ocean.

All fishing activity around South Georgia is regulated by internationally adopted measures agreed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and by supplementary regulations issued by the GSGSSI. 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.

Currently four species are exploited commercially from the cold rich waters around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.   A longline fishery targets Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eliginoides) in South Georgia, whilst a small research fishery targets both Patagonian and Antarctic (D. mawsoni) toothfish in the South Sandwich Islands.  The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified South Georgia toothfish fishery is restricted to the austral winter to minimise the risk of seabird by-catch.   The pelagic trawl fishery for Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is also restricted to the winter months, in this case to avoid competition between the fishery and krill dependent predators, such as penguins and fur seals.  Finally a small, MSC certified pelagic trawl fishery for mackerel icefish operates in some years.

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. A biennial trawl survey is conducted on the South Georgia shelf to monitor the status of mackerel icefish, assess the abundance of juvenile Patagonian toothfish, and assess the status of other demersal species.  Samples from these surveys, such as stomach contents and otoliths, are analysed in the laboratories at KEP.

In addition, the KEP scientists undertake monthly plankton sampling in Cumberland Bay and the Bay of Isles from the GSGSSI Patrol vessel Pharos SG. These samples are analysed in the KEP laboratories and provide valuable data on seasonal and inter-annual variability in the abundance of fish larvae, Antarctic krill and other plankton.

KEP scientists also monitor the breeding success of Antarctic fur seals and gentoo penguins at Maiviken, which is a short walk from the station at KEP.  Maiviken is designated as a CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Programme (CEMP) site and data from this monitoring programme is submitted to CCAMLR on an annual basis.  Giant petrel and elephant seal populations are also monitored in the vicinity of KEP on a seasonal basis.

Earth observation research

In 2015, a new meteor radar was installed at King Edward Point to discover more about how small mountainous islands in large oceans impact global atmospheric circulation through gravity wave propagation.

Part of the South Georgia Wave Experiment (SG-WEX) run by the University of Bath, BAS, the Met Office and the University of Leeds, the radar works by detecting meteors or shooting stars as they enter the Earth atmosphere. By tracking the speed and direction of meteor trails, the radar provides information on the wind in that part of the atmosphere.

In 2011, the British Geological Survey (BGS) re-established the King Edward Point magnetic observatory, extending observations made by BAS from 1975 to 1982. The observatory plugs a significant gap in the global network of magnetic observatories, allowing better monitoring of the South Atlantic Anomaly and changes occurring deep within the Earth.

 


King Edward Point – Project Blog

25 February, 2020 by Joe Corner

Joe Corner, BAS Islands Project Manager, is currently overseeing the redevelopment of King Edward Point wharf on South Georgia Island in the Sub-Antarctic. The project will enable the new UK …




RRS Sir David Attenborough: The story so far

20 April, 2017 by Paul Fox

Paul Fox, Senior Responsible Officer for RRS Sir David Attenborough, has written a guest blog for a behind-the-scenes look at NERC’s commission of a new polar research ship for Britain and the associated Antarctic infrastructure modernisation programme.






King Edward Point Diary – October 2014

31 October, 2014 by BAS Bloggers

Greetings from the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia where spring has finally sprung. September finished with the visit of two warships and then on the 1st October our fisheries biologist, …











King Edward Point Diary – May 2013

31 May, 2013 by BAS Bloggers

May is the greatest month of the year. ‘Quite a grand statement’ you might say,’ what about December?’. Forget December, its rubbish. May is the best for two reasons 1)It …









King Edward Point Diary – May 2012

31 May, 2012 by BAS Bloggers

Compared to recent months, May was a relatively quiet month and saw us eventually whittled down to our wintering team. The month kicked off with an oil spill response exercise, …











King Edward Point – July 2011

22 July, 2011 by BAS Bloggers

The month kicked off with cold weather and a continuation of our midwinter celebrations — interrupted at the time by shipping and work commitments which often occur outside of normal …


King Edward Point Diary – June 2011

30 June, 2011 by BAS Bloggers

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 …


King Edward Point Diary – May 2011

31 May, 2011 by BAS Bloggers

A month of holidays, parties and a little bit of work! The two bank holidays of course coincided with some deep depressions bringing miserable weather however, Rob, Tommy and myself …















King Edward Point Diary – November 2009

30 November, 2009 by BAS Bloggers

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 …








King Edward Point Diary – April 2009

30 April, 2009 by BAS Bloggers

And finally… the April diary entry for KEP. As Luke in March gave you the most comprehensive and poetic description of South Georgia’s wildlife, ecosystems and sporting glory, I shall …








King Edward Point Diary – April 2008

30 April, 2008 by BAS Bloggers

South Georgia is well known nowadays for its wildlife but it once supported a massive and destructive whaling industry and in it’s heyday, 1925-26, nearly 8000 whales were processed, with …



King Edward Point Diary – February 2008

28 February, 2008 by BAS Bloggers

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, …

























King Edward Point Diary – April 2005

30 April, 2005 by BAS Bloggers

Summer’s end April marks the end of the busy summer, the last of the summer visitors have gone – the scientists, technicians, tourists, seafarers, mountaineers and, of course, the taxidermist. …











King Edward Point Diary – June 2004

30 June, 2004 by BAS Bloggers

Midwinter The psychology of a sub-Antarctic winter, and how to survive it… That there can be nothing worse than a depressive dark isolated winter has been clearly stated by Frederich …






















King Edward Point Diary – July 2002

31 July, 2002 by BAS Bloggers

A busy month for boating Midway through the winter fishing season, July has seen many vessels visit KEP to trans-ship catch onto large refrigerator vessels. Here, the krill trawler, In …


King Edward Point Diary – June 2002

30 June, 2002 by BAS Bloggers

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; …



King Edward Point Diary – March 2002

31 March, 2002 by BAS Bloggers

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 …





Migratory secrets of recovering whale species

20 May, 2020

Scientists have discovered where a whale species that feeds around the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia breeds during the winter months. This understanding of where the animals migrate from will …





Scientists join policy makers to discuss conservation

22 October, 2018

BAS marine researchers join nearly 300 international delegates at the annual meeting of the Convention on the Conservation or Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) beginning in Hobart today. For the …


Construction partner announced

4 January, 2017

Construction expert BAM has been chosen to partner with British Antarctic Survey (BAS) to modernise UK Antarctic and other research facilities, enabling British scientists to continue delivering world class research …


New field season begins

29 November, 2016

As spring returns to the southern hemisphere British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has started another research season which will take them over land, sea and ice in search of answers to …



PRESS RELEASE: Cool Antarctic jobs

12 January, 2016

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is recruiting now. The smooth operation and maintenance of our research stations depends on skilled technical support teams. Check out our latest vacancies!



NEWS STORY: Christmas in Antarctica

19 December, 2014

British Antarctic Survey staff prepare to celebrate Christmas far away from home As you make the last preparations for the festive period, spare a thought for those who will be …


NEWS STORY: Patagonian toothfish fishery

16 September, 2014

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 …


NEWS STORY: Midwinter’s Day in Antarctica

20 June, 2014

Midwinter’s Day celebrations take place at Antarctic Research Stations Staff at the British Antarctic Survey are celebrating Midwinter’s Day in Antarctica. In a tradition which began in the days of …


NEWS STORY: Bird Island on CBBC

27 May, 2014

Deadly Pole to Pole at Bird Island Tune in to CBBC today at 5:25pm to see adventurer Steve Backshall on Bird Island as part of the BBC’s Deadly Pole to …


NEWS STORY: Greetings from Antarctica

24 December, 2013

Christmas messages from Antarctic staff Many British Antarctic Survey scientists and support staff will be spending this Christmas thousands of miles from home on the frozen continent. BAS has five …



South Georgia Town Meeting – 28 September 2010

23 August, 2010

A South Georgia Town Meeting takes place at British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge on 28 September 2010. The Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) seeks to …



Gentoo Penguin Tracking

A fishery for Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) operates over the shelf breaks of the South Orkney, South Shetland and South Georgia archipelagos [8]. Krill is an important food source for …


Impact of Plastic in the Polar Regions

An estimated 75% of all the litter in our oceans is plastic, and around 5 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the ocean annually. Scientific observations of a significant concentration …



Long term monitoring of plastics

This long-term study monitors the impact of marine plastics and other debris on breeding seabirds at Bird Island. Researchers have monitored the levels of marine plastics and other material from …



Transformation

The BAS Transformation programme – Fit for the Future – aims to modernise, update and improve processes and systems across the operation to ensure the benefits of the Antarctic Infrastructure …


Wildlife from Space

Many populations of wildlife are remote, inaccessible or difficult to monitor. The advent of sub-metre, Very-High-Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery may enable us study these animals in a much more efficient …