The sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia is one of the world’s most incredible places, and one that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit three times:
- For eight days in January 2004 during my first Antarctica trip.
- For seventeen days in October 2004 on the South Georgia trip.
- For eight days in January 2006 during my second Antarctica trip.
As amazing as it is today, South Georgia was once the most important seabird nesting site in the world, home to over 100 million nesting birds. The arrival of whalers and the introduction of rats to the island changed everything; birds that nest on the ground stand little or no chance against rats, and today it is mostly only the small offshore islands surrounding South Georgia that support large bird colonies.
South Georgia’s future will change dramatically this year. After a successful test run last year, 2013 and 2014 will see the largest rat eradication effort ever undertaken, with the hope of restoring South Georgia to its pre-whaling glory. The effort will be seven times larger than the largest eradication program previously undertaken, which was on Campbell Island in New Zealand.
While there is a lot to be discouraged about in the world today, particularly in the field of conservation, there are also a lot of good things going on. In the case of South Georgia, to know that the natural environment will be even more pristine in the future is a truly rare thing that is extraordinarily exciting to consider.