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. By BAS 1969–82, then 2001–present. The British army occupied a garrison on the island 1982–2001
Staff
Summer: 22, Winter: 12

King Edward Point is a centre for applied fisheries research.  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 sustainable fishing 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.  Research conducted here informs the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) – the international organisations that sets catch limits for the commercial fisheries in this region.   The waters around South Georgia are among the most sustainably-managed in the world.  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 activity around South Georgia.

BAS staff regularly give science talks and presentations to the 8,000 tourists, mainly 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

Surrounded by spectacular scenery, dominated by mountains and glaciers, King Edward Point is about 1,400km (860 miles) south-east of the Falkland Islands.  Around 170km long and between 2km and 40km wide, South Georgia’s main mountain range, the Allardyce range, has its highest point at Mount Paget (2,960 metres).

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 boat or ship-based helicopter.

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

Working at King Edward Point

In summer, 22 people usually live at King Edward Point station. During the winter there are 12 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 16 to 26 months. They include: two fisheries scientists; 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 GSGSSI. Based at Stanley in the Falkland Islands, the Government is represented at King Edward Point by a Government Officer.

BAS staff at King Edward Point provide logistic support for the Government Officer 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.

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.

Wildlife

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

Together with South Sandwich, the islands 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 breed on the beach in front of the research station. Across Cumberland East Bay, the Barff Peninsula is a favourite area for King Edward Point staff to take recreational travel trips to visit the king penguins at St Andrew’s Bay.

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 (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.

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. BAS staff have found several successful broods and the pipit’s song has been heard on the Thatcher Peninsula for the first time in decades.

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 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 comprehensive 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  also available.

There is no runway at King Edward Point, but the GSGSSI fisheries patrol vessel, Pharos SG, travels between the Falklands and South Georgia every six weeks, ensuring regular supplies of mail and fresh food.

The team makes it own entertainment – from the mid-winter Olympics and a half marathon to film nights that have featured a horror film screening in the old whaling station at Grytviken.

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.

Purpose

King Edward Point Research Station is a centre for research into the sustainable management of commercial fisheries around the island of South Georgia.  BAS scientists work in its laboratories to conduct research on behalf of the GSGSSI and support its administrative presence on the island. The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) reinvests revenue from fisheries and tourism into the science that underpins the long-term management of its natural resources.

Research

A core BAS research goal is to provide sound scientific advice to assist in the sustainable management of the valuable commercial fisheries around the island. This work assists the stock assessments and population modelling of target species conducted for the GSGSSI by the Marine Resources Assessment Group Ltd (MRAG) in London and complements existing research conducted by BAS biologists in the Southern Ocean. BAS conservation biology research includes South Georgia's gentoo penguins and Antarctic fur seals. Krill is difficult and expensive to monitor directly, so monitoring penguins and seals – species that depend on krill – is a good way of monitoring the overall health of the ecosystem, including krill. 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. 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. 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.

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 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 – January 2011

31 January, 2011 by BAS Bloggers

January 2011 and another year beings at King Edward Point, South Georgia… The New Year was welcomed in with a fantastic three course meal, drinks and party atmosphere a’flowing, and …











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 – March 2009

31 March, 2009 by BAS Bloggers

March of the Penguins. And March they did indeed, to their deathbeds of moulted feathers blowing away in the wind with their last breath. Shaggy coats of half-moulted feathers, worn …







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 – July 2005

31 July, 2005 by BAS Bloggers

Back to normal July has arrived with the promise of longer days and hopefully for our intrepid skiers, heavy snow. It also heralded the return to normality after the mid-winter …




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 – March 2003

31 March, 2003 by BAS Bloggers

A busy month Another busy month here in South Georgia. Early March saw the departure of Molly Sheridan, Irene Valenkamp and Alasdair Reid. Irene and Alasdair have been assistants to …








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 …




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!



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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 …


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16 September, 2014

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NEWS STORY: Midwinter’s Day in Antarctica

20 June, 2014

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27 May, 2014

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24 December, 2013

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NEWS STORY: Midwinter’s Day celebrations

21 June, 2013

  Celebrating Midwinter’s Day in Antarctica Staff at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) celebrate Midwinter’s Day today (21 June , 2013). Celebrated as the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere, …



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 …