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South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
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South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Background:  The islands 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. The 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. The islands
have large bird and seal populations and, 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 the South Sandwich Islands

Location:  Southern South America, islands in the South Atlantic Ocean,
east of the tip of South America

Geographic coordinates:  54 30 S, 37 00 W

Map references:  Antarctic Region

Area:  total: 3,903 sq km note: includes Shag Rocks, Black Rock, Clerke
Rocks, South Georgia Island, Bird Island, and the South Sandwich Islands,
which consist of some nine islands water: 0 sq km land: 3,903 sq km

Area - comparative:  slightly larger than Rhode Island

Land boundaries:  0 km

Coastline:  NA km

Maritime claims:  exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM territorial sea: 12 NM

Climate:  variable, with mostly westerly winds throughout the year
interspersed with periods of calm; nearly all precipitation falls as snow

Terrain:  most of the islands, rising steeply from the sea, are
rugged and mountainous; South Georgia is largely barren and has steep,
glacier-covered mountains; the South Sandwich Islands are of volcanic
origin with some active volcanoes

Elevation extremes:  lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m highest point:
Mount Paget (South Georgia) 2,934 m

Natural resources:  fish

Land use:  arable land: 0% permanent crops: 0% other: 100% (largely
covered by permanent ice and snow with some sparse vegetation consisting
of grass, moss, and lichen) (1998 est.)

Irrigated land:  0 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards:  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:  NA

Geography - note:  the north coast of South Georgia has several large
bays, which provide good anchorage; reindeer, introduced early in the
21st century, live on South Georgia

People South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Population:  no indigenous inhabitants note: the small military garrison
on South Georgia withdrew in March 2001, to be 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 (July 2002 est.)

Population growth rate:  NA%

Government South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Country name:  conventional long form: South Georgia and the South
Sandwich Islands conventional short form: none

Dependency status:  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; Grytviken, formerly a whaling station on South Georgia,
is a scientific base

National holiday:  Liberation Day, 14 June (1982)

Constitution:  adopted 3 October 1985

Legal system:  the laws of the UK, where applicable, apply; the senior
magistrate from the Falkland Islands presides over the Magistrates Court

Diplomatic representation in the US:  none (overseas territory of the UK,
also claimed by Argentina)

Diplomatic representation from the US:  none (overseas territory of the
UK, also claimed by Argentina)

Flag description:  the flag of the UK is used

Economy South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Economy - overview:  Some fishing takes place in adjacent waters. There
is a potential source of income from harvesting fin fish and krill. The
islands receive income from postage stamps produced in the UK,
sale of fishing licenses, and harbor and landing fees from tourist
vessels. Tourism from specialized cruise ships is increasing rapidly.

Electricity - production:  NA kWh

Electricity - production by source:  fossil fuel: NA% hydro: NA% other:
NA% nuclear: NA%

Electricity - consumption:  NA kWh

Communications South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Telephone system:  general assessment: NA domestic: NA international:
coastal radiotelephone station at Grytviken

Radio broadcast stations:  none

Television broadcast stations:  0 (1997)

Internet country code:  .gs

Transportation South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Waterways:  none

Ports and harbors:  Grytviken

Airports:  none (2001)

Military South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Military - note:  defense is the responsibility of the UK

Transnational Issues South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Disputes - international:  South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
occupied briefly by Argentina in 1982; islands continue to be claimed
by Argentina

This page was last updated on 1 January 2002




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