Remark: Due to legal reasons, the video may only be viewed on the website of the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Therefore, at the end of the article we have built in a direct link to the page with the video. We wish you a lot of fun!
South Georgia is a natural paradise in the middle of the wild South Atlantic, across the Antarctic border. The island, which is about 160 kilometres long but only 38 kilometres wide, is characterized by its wild beauty and a huge number of different animal and plant species. No wonder this jewel is on the list of of expedition operator trips. In order to protect nature and still be able to show it to the public, there are strict rules for both tour operators and visitors. Now the administration of the British Overseas Territory has released a new, professional video in which no other than Sir David Attenborough educates future visitors about the rules and the island.
The nearly 19-minute video was created with the idea of conveying two messages: how to behave in this landscape, so that the visit becomes a sustainable experience for nature and tourists, and that it is possible for nature to recover from severe human impacts if offered the chance. Industrial whaling, sealing, unchecked fisheries and introduced species have badly damaged the island and its inhabitants in the past.
“South Georgia shows us how much better our planet can be if we learn to live in balance with nature.”
Dame Jane Francis DCMG, British Antarctic Survey
But thanks to the hard and tireless work of some groups such as the South Georgia Heritage Trust, the island’s GSGSSI administration, and organizations such as the International Assocation of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), it has been possible to get this ecosystem back on track. Dame Jane Francis DCMG, Head of the British Antarctic Survey, said: “South Georgia is a real gem in the Southern Ocean. The breath-taking scenery and stunning wildlife will fill you with awe and make you wonder at the incredible beauty of the island in its natural state. South Georgia shows us how much better our planet can be if we learn to live in balance with nature.”
The new video was produced by the British company Silverback Films Ltd. and includes BBC archive footage as well as new footage of the company and footage provided by private individuals. Some IAATO members were also involved in the production of the film, especially in logistical form. IAATO Executive Director Gina Greer said: “IAATO is proud to have played a part in bringing ‘South Georgia – A Visitor’s Guide’ to fruition and we look forward to sharing it with future visitors.” The film will be shown to guests aboard IAATO member vessels to introduce them to the rules of conduct in South Georgia.
“With an understanding of how small actions can have big repercussion, we aim to inspire visitors to live in a more environmentally sensitive way, that sustains our planet, and does not destroy it.”
H.E. Nigel Phillips, Goouverneur Falkland Islands
The increasing number of visitors to the island shows that this is important: over the past 20 years, the number of tourists has increased from just above 2,100 to more than 10,000 visitors per year. And the trend is still rising, despite the Corona crisis. The Commissioner of South Georgia and Governor of the Falkland Islands, His Excellency Nigel Phllips CBE, says: “It is a privilege to be Commissioner and custodian of one of the most remarkable places on earth. (…) With an understanding of how small actions can have big repercussion, we aim to inspire visitors to live in a more environmentally sensitive way, that sustains our planet, and does not destroy it.” South Georgia is just right for this. The island is now considered to be the greatest concentration of seabirds and marine mammals in the world.
“It will inspire, it may even take your breath away.”H.E. Nigel Phillips, Governor of Falkland Islands on the film
But the film isn’t just a reminder of the rules of conduct. Rather, the creators and the administration of the island want to show that, contrary to all expectations, nature is able to reclaim severely affected areas for itself if the appropriate aid is provided. Sir David Attenborough, who accompanies the film with his distinctive voice, also says at the beginning of the film: “Let [South Georgia] it be your inspiration to seek out nature, and play your part in protecting and restoring our planet, whenever and however you can.” Nigel Phillips CBE also wants viewers to be inspired by the work to protect South Georgia. “This film beautifully encompasses the outcomes of tireless work of many people over the decades that Sir David Attenborough has been visiting. It is only as a result of their endeavours that this film can tell such a moving story of an ecosystem in recovery. It will inspire, it may even take your breath away.”
However, despite the successes achieved in recent years and decades for the protection of flora and fauna, the threat is still not over. Globally caused problems such as plastic pollution, illegal and excessive fishing and climate change are affecting the island and its inhabitants. In addition to animals and plants, it is also the historical sites that suffer from warming. However, the preservation of these places is important for conservation efforts. For they are to serve as memorials of what happens when human greed and inability to see the greater connections. And this is something you never want to experience again here.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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