St Helena Online

Tag: South Georgia

Historian wants to bring Great War wreck back home

The Viola / Dias, photographed in the 1990s by  Lieutenant Philip Hall of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The Viola / Dias, photographed in the 1990s by Lieutenant Philip Hall of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A rusting trawler in South Georgia is thought to be the last surviving boat of its kind to have served in the First World War – and now a historian wants to return it toEngland.

The Hull Daily Mail says the Viola was converted to carry out anti-submarine patrols, and helped sink two German submarines off the British coast.

After the war, it was used for whaling off the coast of Africa, before being sold to an Argentinian firm that used it for sealing around South Georgia – renamed Dias.

It was laid up on the shore after the whaling station at Grytviken closed in the 1960s and was still there when scrap metal merchants landed on South Georgia, triggering the Falklands War. 

The vessel sank on its mooring in 1974, according to the Wikipedia website.

In 2004, the site says, the Dias and the neighbouring Albatros were refloated, cleared of all remaining oil, and beached.

An organisation, the “Friends of Viola/Dias“, has been set up to preserve the ship – either on South Georgia or in its home port of Hull.

A website dedicated to the ship says: “Viola’s story is unique: a remarkable story of fisheries, whaling, sealing, war and exploration during which she both weathered and witnessed many aspects of mankind’s 20th Century struggles on the sea.

“Viola was one of 50-or-so trawlers built for the Hellyer Boxing Fleet in 1906. By 1918 no less than twenty two of her sister vessels had been lost, to either the elements or enemy action in the Great War.

“Today, apart from this little ship, all physical trace of the once proud Hellyer fleet has disappeared.

“Viola/Dias is now the oldest surviving former steam trawler in the world with her steam engines still intact.”

In 2006 the Viola’s original bell was discovered on a farm in Norway and purchased by Hull Maritime Museum. In 2008 the bell was returned to the ship

The Hull Daily Mail quotes Dr Robb Robinson, who works at the Maritime Historical Studies Centre in Hull, saying it would cost about £500,000 to take the boat back to the UK on a barge, and a further £1m to restore it.

He said the centenary of the First World War probably provided the best chance to inspire a campaign to transport the ship home. “Its story is a voyage through the 20th Century,” he said. “For me, it would be a dream to see it come back after all this time.”

Great War boat could finally be coming home – Hull Daily Mail
Viola (trawler) – Wikipedia
Viola/Dias website

Armageddon for island’s rats: but not on St Helena

Twenty five men and women are spending months camping out on ice-covered South Georgia on what’s been called “the world’s biggest rat cull”.

It is being led by zoologist Anthony Martin, dubbed the Pied Piper, who hopes to poison millions of the rats that have been killing seabirds for 200 years on St Helena’s sister territory in the Southern Ocean.

“If we remove 99.9% of them, we’ve failed,” Professor Martin tells the Wall Street Journal. “We have to get every single animal.”

Sadly, his technique of dumping 200 tons of poison from helicopters cannot be used on St Helena, where some pest controllers were made redundant in 2012 despite complaints of increasing rat sightings.

On South Georgia, it is feared the poison may harm birds that feed  on the ground – just as St Helena’s endangered wirebirds do.

Read the full article here.

Decline that led to wirebird breeding failures
‘I survived rat fever. It’s serious’ – Henry’s story

Scientists probe Ascension Island’s underwater mysteries

An octopus peers out from its hiding place off Ascension. Picture: Shallow Marine Surveys Group

A diving expedition has yielded hundreds of pictures of Ascension Island as few people ever see it – as well as species not found there before.

They show an underwater spectacle that contrasts sharply with the island’s harsh volcanic shores. Some of the most striking pictures can be found in the Galleries section of St Helena Online (see link below).

fish swim over pink coral
The Great Wetropolis: Ascension’s teeming sea life city

The island’s waters were explored in August and September 2012 by the Shallow Marine Surveys Group, set up by Falklands-based scientists to research island waters in the South Atlantic and Southern Ocean.

They were helped by Stedson Stroud and his staff at Ascension Island Conservation, and island divers Drew Avery and Caz Yon.

Similar research on St Helena is expected. The island has a number of fish about which little is known, including its endangered wrasse and dragonet species. 

Expedition members set up a laboratory in the conservation offices – then scoured the island for containers in which to carry sea water to top up tanks each day. They even hunted through rubbish tips.

A leading academic journal for marine biologists is to devote an entire edition to the Ascension expedition.

Earlier in 2012 the group carried out a similar survey around the ice-covered British island of South Georgia – the most extensive in 87 years.

FEATURE: Ascension’s underwater wonders revealed
GALLERY: Underwater Ascension
Wirebird remains on global danger list, thanks to airport

Expedition blog

St Helena cruise passengers stranded in the cold

Tour ship Plancius with an ice cliff behind
Plancius was meant to be headed for the tropics (picture: Inezia Tours / Pieter van den Luit)

A tourist ship that was meant to be headed for St Helena and her sister islands is stranded instead at South Georgia, waiting for rescue.

Another vessel has left Ushuaia in Argentina to take off the 73 passengers and some of the expedition staff and crew of the MV Plancius. “There is no threat to life or environment,” said a statement from the owners.

The ship’s main propulsion system malfuntioned, leaving it with reduced power.

The web promotion for the 39-day Atlantic Odyssey said it offered “a unique possibility to visit several of the remotest islands in the world.

“Besides the Antarctic Peninsula, the South Shetland Islands, South Georgia and the South Orkney Islands, the Atlantic Odyssey visits Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Ascension Island and Cape Verde. Isolated local communities can be visited.”

A statement from Oceanwide Expeditions said: “The spirit on board is – given the circumstances – good  and passengers indulge in local walks and an excursion programme organized by expedition staff.

“The ship has only very limited sailing capabilities (maximum 4-5 knots in calm conditions), which means the vessel will not be able maintain course in rough seas of the open ocean.”

A tug is due to reach the Plancius at Grytviken on 17 April 2012 and tow it to South America if it cannot be repaired in-situ. The ship is sheltered in safe position resting alongside the jetty of King Edward Point Research Station in the British overseas territory.

Passengers were meant to finish their cruise at the Cape Verde islands in early May. Instead, they will be taken to Montevideo in Uruguay, ending their holiday more than a week early.


Look on the bright side – they’re not short of ice for the drinks!

– Amy DuPrez, via Facebook

Oceanwide Expeditions: updates

South Georgia marine reserve: a ‘land grab’ in the ocean?

South Georgia, by Scott Henderson
Riches of the ocean have been protected around South Georgia, a British overseas territory (picture: Scott Henderson/

The creation of a vast marine reserve around South Georgia could be seen as a way of grabbing territory for the UK, a political analyst has warned.

“Given that Argentina claims sovereignty over the newly protected areas,” says Dr James Allan, “the British government’s decision is a reminder of how environmental matters are often closely intertwined with political agendas.”

A million square kilometres of ocean around the British territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands were declared a marine reserve last month. Fishing will be banned in a 20,000-square-kilometre zone around the islands, which are home to seven species of globally threatened sea bird, including the wandering albatross.

South Georgia is richer in unique species than even the celebrated Galápagos islands, according to a study completed in 2011.

Dr Allan, of the consultancy firm Maplecroft, says the UK’s intentions are “ostensibly noble”, but that designating protection zones can provide a means by which “power can be extended over both space and political rivals.”

He says theorits will say the UK has “created space” in the ocean: “That is, by drawing new lines on a map the distant government has awarded itself a new territorial scale through which its power can be exercised… to subjugate the interests of other groups.”

He compares the move with the creation of a national park near Jerusalem, between two Arab neighbourhoods: “Opponents claim the designation is simply a land grab.”


New South Atlantic marine reserve will raise political tensions
UK protects ocean for fish and albatross South Georgia

UK protects ocean for fish and albatross

Seabirds featured in South Georgia stamps - by artist John Gale -have gained new protection

A million square kilometres of ocean have been given new protection around the British territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It will safeguard one of the most important fish-spawning grounds in the Southern Ocean – home to seven species of globally threatened sea bird, including the wandering albatross.

Sir David Attenborough, whose Frozen Planet BBC series was filmed partly on South Georgia, has welcomed the creation of one of the world’s largest marine reserves. He said: ‘This is extremely timely given the dramatic change that the polar regions are currently undergoing.’

South Georgia is richer in unique species than even the celebrated Galápagos islands, according to a study completed in 2011.

The Press Association news agency predicts that the UK’s announcement of a protection zone will further inflame tensions with Argentina over disputed South Atlantic territories.

Fishing will be banned in a 20,000-square-kilometre zone around the islands – one the UK’s most remote and pristine overseas territories. Commercial bottom trawling will be prohibited in the entire protection area and longline fishing – which is blamed for albatross deaths – will only be allowed at depths greater than 700 metres.

Limited fishing licences will be sold, to fund patrols to prevent illegal fishing.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said the UK and island governments had already taken steps to avoid slaughter of albatrosses by longline fishing crews. A spokesman said: ‘This latest protection marks another leap forward, but we hope that it will be followed by additional specific protection for vulnerable marine species and resources.’

It wants tighter management of fishing for highly-prized Antarctic krill within the marine protected area.

The RSPB has said that albatross colonies around South Georgia have suffered ‘some of the most rapid declines seen in any population worldwide.’

Two artists, Chris Rose and John Gale, visited South Georgia in 2010 and later raised £15,000 for the RSPB’s work through an ‘art for albatrosses’ exhibition in London.


Click here and here to see examples of work by artists Chris Rose and John Gale.
See more details from the British Antarctic Survey here.

See also: Islands are key to ice riches

HMS Montrose continues islands tour

HMS Montrose is nearing the end of a six-month deployment to  all the British overseas territories in the South Atlantic, following a season of anti-piracy action in the Indian Ocean.

Navy News has an impressive picture of the type-23 frigate approaching Gough Island, photographed from the air. See it on the Navy News website.

HMS Dauntless is due to take over the routine South Atlantic tour – though Argentina has interpreted the deployment of the Type 45 destroyer as military aggression.

HMS Montrose has already visited Ascension, St Helena, the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Its mission statement says: ‘The Atlantic Patrol Task (South) ship provides reassurance to UK overseas territories, Commonwealth countries and other friendly nations in the South Atlantic, and acts as a deterrent to potential aggressors who may wish to threaten UK nations, territory or interests.

‘The ship is responsible for maintaining British sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, including South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.’

A report from the ship for Navy News says HMS Montrose is thought to be the first Royal Navy vessel to visit Gough Island in the past decade.

The island, 230 miles from Tristan da Cunha, is a World Heritage Site, breeding ground for ‘almost the entire world population of Tristan albatross and Atlantic petrel – all of which were very much in evidence when Montrose launched her Lynx helicopter to conduct an airborne reconnaissance and fisheries patrol of the island’s waters.’

Gough – named after a Naval captain who visited in 1731 – is temporary home to six members of the South African Weather Service, and two staff of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Commander Jonathan Lett of HMS Montrose tells Navy News: ‘Just as with our visits to Ascension, St Helena, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands earlier in the deployment, it has been a real privilege to visit one of the most isolated British South Atlantic Overseas Territories as part of our mission in the region.’

On South Georgia, ship’s crew went ashore at Grytviken on December 16 and dealt with recent ordnance finds, including a two-inch mortar and two rifle grenades. See a spectacular picture here.

The ship sailed for the South Sandwich Islands the following day, patrolling down the remote island chain until prevented from going further south by ice.

HMS Montrose has a complement of 185 officers and ratings and is equipped with the latest weapons, sensors and communications systems, including the vertical-launch Sea Wolf missile system for close air defence, a 4.5-inch (114mm) gun, anti-submarine torpedoes, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Lynx helicopter.


HMS Montrose

Ice and explosives: South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands

HMS Montrose intercepts pirates – 2010

Flying dentist joins crew in South Atlantic

HMS Dauntless deployed to Falklands – BBC

Military defending ‘all South Atlantic territories’

It’s not only the Falkland Islands that are being protected by the military presence in the South Atlantic, according to the man in charge at Mount Pleasant base.

‘My mission is to deter any military aggression to these islands or the other South Atlantic overseas territories,’ said Brigadier Bill Aldridge, Commander of British Forces in the Falklands. ‘I’ve got the capabilities to do that.’

It was actually on South Georgia, a separate territory, that the Argentinian flag was first raised in the conflict of 1982.

St Helena and Tristan da Cunha have not faced any serious military threat since Napoleon died in 1821 – notwithstanding the sinking of the Darkdale in James Bay during World War Two.

Brigadier Aldridge was interviewed in a BBC report about the arrival of Prince William in the Falklands.

A press statement issued by the UK Ministry of Defence today (6 February) says the islands will provide Flight Lieutenant Wales with important training as a search-and-rescue (SAR) pilot:

Flight Lieutenant Wales ‘The experience they get here is second-to-none,’ says his commanding officer, Squadron Leader Miles Bartlett. ‘It is a challenging and varied job providing an essential capability to the military and the Falkland Islands population.’

Changeable weather on the island provide challenging conditions, said the MoD. Tasks for Flt Lt Wales can include rescuing fishermen from trawlers, taking seriously ill patients to hospital, putting out peat fires or dropping off vital supplies to isolated areas.

Prince William will not perform any royal duties during his six-week South Atlantic tour.