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South America :: South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Print
Page last updated on August 03, 2020
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  • Introduction :: South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • Background field listing
    The islands, with large bird and seal populations, lie approximately 1,000 km east of the Falkland Islands and have been under British administration since 1908 - except for a brief period in 1982 when Argentina occupied them. Grytviken, on South Georgia, was a 19th and early 20th century whaling station. Famed explorer Ernest SHACKLETON stopped there in 1914 en route to his ill-fated attempt to cross Antarctica on foot. He returned some 20 months later with a few companions in a small boat and arranged a successful rescue for the rest of his crew, stranded off the Antarctic Peninsula. He died in 1922 on a subsequent expedition and is buried in Grytviken. Today, the station houses scientists from the British Antarctic Survey. Recognizing the importance of preserving the marine stocks in adjacent waters, the UK, in 1993, extended the exclusive fishing zone from 12 nm to 200 nm around each island.
  • Geography :: South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • Location field listing
    Southern South America, islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, east of the tip of South America
    Geographic coordinates field listing
    54 30 S, 37 00 W
    Map references field listing
    Antarctic Region
    Area field listing
    total: 3,903 sq km
    land: 3,903 sq km
    water: 0 sq km

    note: includes Shag Rocks, Black Rock, Clerke Rocks, South Georgia Island, Bird Island, and the South Sandwich Islands, which consist of 11 islands

    country comparison to the world: 177
    Area - comparative field listing
    slightly larger than Rhode Island
    Land boundaries field listing
    0 km
    Coastline field listing
    Maritime claims field listing
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
    Climate field listing
    variable, with mostly westerly winds throughout the year interspersed with periods of calm; nearly all precipitation falls as snow
    Terrain field listing
    most of the islands are rugged and mountainous rising steeply from the sea; South Georgia is largely barren with steep, glacier-covered mountains; the South Sandwich Islands are of volcanic origin with some active volcanoes
    Elevation field listing
    lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
    highest point: Mount Paget (South Georgia) 2,934 m
    Natural resources field listing
    Land use field listing
    agricultural land: 0% (2011 est.)
    arable land: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 0% (2011 est.)
    forest: 0% (2011 est.)
    other: 100% (2011 est.)
    Irrigated land field listing
    0 sq km (2011)
    Natural hazards field listing
    the South Sandwich Islands have prevailing weather conditions that generally make them difficult to approach by ship; they are also subject to active volcanism
    Environment - current issues field listing
    reindeer - introduced to the islands in the 20th century - devastated the native flora and bird species; some reindeer were translocated to the Falkland Islands in 2001, the rest were exterminated (2013-14); a parallel effort (2010-15) eradicated rats and mice that came to the islands as stowaways on ships as early as the late 18th century
    Geography - note field listing
    the north coast of South Georgia has several large bays, which provide good anchorage
  • People and Society :: South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • Population field listing
    no indigenous inhabitants

    note: the small military garrison on South Georgia withdrew in March 2001, replaced by a permanent group of scientists of the British Antarctic Survey, which also has a biological station on Bird Island; the South Sandwich Islands are uninhabited

  • Government :: South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • Country name field listing
    conventional long form: South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
    conventional short form: South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
    abbreviation: SGSSI
    etymology: South Georgia was named "the Isle of Georgia" in 1775 by Captain James COOK in honor of British King GEORGE III; the explorer also discovered the Sandwich Islands Group that year, which he named "Sandwich Land" after John MONTAGU, the Earl of Sandwich and First Lord of the Admiralty; the word "South" was later added to distinguish these islands from the other Sandwich Islands, now known as the Hawaiian Islands
    Dependency status field listing
    overseas territory of the UK, also claimed by Argentina; administered from the Falkland Islands by a commissioner, who is concurrently governor of the Falkland Islands, representing Queen ELIZABETH II
    International organization participation field listing
    Diplomatic representation in the US field listing
    none (overseas territory of the UK, also claimed by Argentina)
    Diplomatic representation from the US field listing
    none (overseas territory of the UK, also claimed by Argentina)
    Flag description field listing
    blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands coat of arms centered on the outer half of the flag; the coat of arms features a shield with a golden lion rampant, holding a torch; the shield is supported by a fur seal on the left and a Macaroni penguin on the right; a reindeer appears above the crest, and below the shield on a scroll is the motto LEO TERRAM PROPRIAM PROTEGAT (Let the Lion Protect its Own Land); the lion with the torch represents the UK and discovery; the background of the shield, blue and white estoiles, are found in the coat of arms of James Cook, discoverer of the islands; all the outer supporting animals represented are native to the islands
  • Economy :: South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • Economy - overview field listing
    Some fishing takes place in adjacent waters. Harvesting finfish and krill are potential sources of income. The islands receive income from postage stamps produced in the UK, the sale of fishing licenses, and harbor and landing fees from tourist vessels. Tourism from specialized cruise ships is increasing rapidly.
  • Communications :: South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • Military and Security :: South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • Military - note field listing
    defense is the responsibility of the UK
  • Transportation :: South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • Roadways field listing
    Ports and terminals field listing
    major seaport(s): Grytviken
  • Transnational Issues :: South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • Disputes - international field listing

    Argentina, which claims the islands in its constitution and briefly occupied them by force in 1982, agreed in 1995 to no longer seek settlement by force