Inside the world’s most uninhabited ‘capital city’ surrounded by icy waters

King Edward Point is one of the most remote places on Earth and is located on South Georgia Island, just about 1,400km southeast of the Falkland Islands.

It is also known as a jagged land of glaciers where temperatures can plummet to -15C. There is no permanent human population in South Georgia, but it is home to Government Officers and spouses and British Antarctic Survey personnel that work on rotation.

It is the capital of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands and is a permanent British Antarctic Survey research station.

Despite the lack of a human population, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is a haven for wildlife. They are home to about five million seals of four different species, and 65 million breeding birds of 30 different species, according to the local government. 

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Three Government Officers are employed to live and work at the station on an overlapping rota and the British Antarctic Survey staff are employed on contracts of 17 months. 

Workers include one fisheries scientist and a zoological field assistant, for seals and penguins. Two boating officers, a doctor, a station leader and two technicians also work on the island.

The main focus of the research conducted is to provide scientific advice to assist Marine Protected areas.  The team has published a number of projects from Gentoo Penguin Tracking to understand the impact of plastics.  

Eleven of the 30 species of breeding birds in South Georgia are listed as threatened or near-threatened by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

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In summer, between 20 to 40 people inhabit the station, but in winter only ten people dare to stay. 

Staff endure a harsh climate in winter and with snow falling at any time and temperatures vary from a frosty -15C to 20C in summer. The island is usually covered in snow from May to October. 

Alongside minimal staff members is an array of wildlife, from Gentoo, macaroni and king penguins, to giant petrels, elephant seals pintail ducks and sooty and wandering albatross. 

Rats were accidentally introduced to South Georgia by sealing and whaling ships, and have devastated populations of ground-nesting birds, including the South Georgia pipit.

In 2011, the South Georgia Heritage Trust embarked on the world’s largest rat eradication programme. By 2015, after three seasons of fieldwork, the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project laid its last load of bait.

At King Edward Point, every care is taken by workers to reduce the risk of further spreading these introduced species to other parts of the island and ensure no new alien species are introduced.

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