Expeditions to South Georgia

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South Georgia remains relatively unexplored (topographically) because of its remoteness and inaccessibility. Up to 1982 very few people had reached the interior of the island. Notable exceptions were Sir Ernest Shackleton on 19/20 May 1916 when he crossed the island to bring rescue to his men stranded on Elephant Island. It was not until 1928/29 that Ludwig Khol-Lars and his wife sledged up the Neumayer Glacier to the Lars Plateau.


Duncan Carse's four South Georgia Surveys of 1951/52, 1953/4, 1955/6 and 1956/7 opened up the island to the possibility of serious exploration. His travel was by classic sledge man hauling and backpacking. Two major sledge routes were found from Cumberland Bay East to Drygalski Fjord in the southeast and from Cumberland West Bay to Ice Fjord in the far northwest. The maps used today are based on the results of his survey.


Major climbing expeditions followed. Lt Cdr Malcolm Burley Royal Navy led a Combined Services team who retraced Shackleton's route and made the first ascent of Mount Paget in 1964/65. They also pioneered a high-level sledge route from Gjelsted Pass down the Lancing Glacier, across the Christensen and up the Kjerulf to the head of the Christophersen Glacier. On the way back from Mount Paget climbed for the first time Mount Sugar Top.


A list of mountaineering ascents can be found below. It is recognized this is probably not completely accurate so contributions to the web master would be welcome so that he can bring it up to date.


The island remains a popular destination for the adventurers to test their skills against the harsh elements of this remote island. In 1988, the peak Nordenskjold was climbed solo by a Frenchman C.de Marliave (Fr) from the yacht Damien 2. Stephen Venables, the well-known British Mountaineer, made the first ascent of Mount Carse in the Salvesen Range in 1990. He was forced to spend most of his month-long expedition in a snow hole because of ferocious weather they experienced. The Royal Mountain Leaders based at King Edward Point from 1983 to 2001 have also been active and achieved a number of first ascents. Mount Roots, the last unclimbed 7,000 ft peak, fell to a British Army expedition in 2001. This was a memorable way to mark the withdrawal of the Military Detachment at King Edward and the return of British Antarctic Survey Scientists that year.


A skiing expedition led by Angus Finney and including South Georgia's Marine Officer, Pat Lurcock, nursing a broken arm, skied the length of the island in 2000. A canoeing expedition in 1999 failed to circumnavigate the island due to poor weather and high seas along the South coast. This year an American extreme ski TV team were beaten back by appalling weather conditions on Nordenskjold when they lost all their tents. One or two parties attempt the Shackleton crossing each year, some are successful.


South Georgia remains relatively unexplored with many unclimbed peaks and unexplored corners. Its remoteness and harsh weather conditions will probably ensure it remains relatively unexplored for some years to come. It is not a land for the faint-hearted or ill prepared.


Expeditions application forms can be found here.

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