“So, where are the South Sandwich Islands anyway….?”

Extant rectangle

This chain of 11 volcanic islands lies deep in the Southern Ocean, 530 km to the south-east of South Georgia. They range in size from 12 km in Diameter (Montagu Island) to 2.4 km in circumference (Leskov Island). All but three of the islands have seen volcanic activity within the last 100 years.  Some are completely ice-covered, some are ice free.  They are uninhabited by people, but home to large breeding colonies of penguins, seals and pelagic seabirds.

South Sandwich

Weather isn’t kind for survey work here. We’ve been in the are for more than two weeks and some of the islands we’ve not even caught a glimpse of due to fog. A shame – as those we have caught sight of have been both varied and striking.  It’s a kingdom of swirling cloud, snow showers and strong winds, interspersed with occasional days of flat calm and sunshine – although even then the temperature barely creeps above freezing.

Saunders IslandSaunders Island, issuing a reminder of it’s volcanic status

So what are we doing here?  The Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is looking to extend the existing Marine Protected Area (MPA). The work conducted on this cruise estimating both both krill and whale abundance in the area will be used to inform the decisions regarding the extension of this MPA.

Bristol ISland                                                                       Bristol Island