Renowned for its lush green coastal plain crowded with wildlife and an interior filled with craggy mountains and majestic glaciers, South Georgia has a landscape for every occasion. The dramatic vistas that are found on South Georgia have taken millennia to form through the action of ice, waves, tectonic forces and the rise and fall of sea levels. Overlaid onto this natural splendour are human factors and even today, evidence of the industry and enterprise of the whalers has left its mark on the landscape, at some sites.
Penguin River and Mount Paget, Cumberland Bay.
Towering at 2,915 m above sea level, Mount Paget is the highest mountain on South Georgia. Its distinctive saddle shape peak forms part of the Allardyce range and on a clear day forms an imposing backdrop to many South Georgia scenes. Formed from alternating layers of sandstone and mudstone, which in places are several meters thick, the rocks in the Cumberland Bay formation have an unusual striped appearance.
On the coast, the landscape of Cumberland Bay is markedly softer and more hospitable. Penguin River flows lazily across a glacial outwash plain and its lower reaches are home to abundant wildlife including fur seals and penguins.
Over 50% of South Georgia is permanently covered with ice and glaciers and the Nordenskjöld is a particularly spectacular example. With its origins high in the Allardyce range, the glacier tumbles directly into Cumberland East Bay. Its surface is fractured with deep crevasses that form as the ice moves at different speeds over the undulating rock beneath. At its terminus, a 3 km wide face plunges into the sea and during the summer months large chunks can be seen calving off the front and often fill the bay with ice. Although retreating more slowly than some of South Georgia’s other glaciers, it has still retreated more than 1 km in the last 30 years.
The striking blue colour of the glacier occurs because over time the huge weight of accumulated snow squeezes air bubbles from the ice meaning light can penetrate more deeply. Red and yellow light is absorbed and blue light, which has a longer wave length, is reflected giving the ice a beautiful azure colour.
Nowhere is South Georgia’s industrial past more striking than at Leith Harbour. Nestled beneath the scree slopes of the Concordia Peak massif, Leith was known as a sheltered anchorage from as far back as the early 1800s when it was used by the early sealers. The steeply sloping shore line and clear approaches from the sea made it an ideal deep water port for shore-based whaling operations and for nearly 70 years the site was a hive of industry. The now abandoned station complex was once the largest on the island and the distinctive red rust coloured factory buildings, warehouses and workshops bare silent witness to decades of human exploitation of the environment and the animals that lived in it.
At the coast, the warmer temperatures and fertile soils can support lush green landscapes dominated by tussac grass, which is home to a huge diversity of invertebrates and large numbers of burrowing seabirds, such as white-chinned petrels and Antarctic prions. At Cape Rosa, wave-cut platforms fringe the shoreline, which is indented by a series of narrow inlets, of which ‘Cave Cove’ is one of the most distinctive. Famously, this is the site where Ernest Shackleton made landfall after his epic journey across the Southern Ocean and sheltered for four days to build up strength before making his famous crossing of South Georgia.
First Day Cover image: View from the top of Mount Duse
Mount Duse dominates the skyline of King Edward Cove and from its summit at more than 500 m above sea level there are fantastic views across the Allardyce Range and beyond. Famously Shackleton’s photographer Frank Hurley took a picture from the same spot before embarking on the fateful Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. From this vantage point, the full range of South Georgia’s varied and impressive landscapes can be admired although in 1914 Hurley would have seen whaling vessels and Endurance moored in the bay rather than the cruise ships and fishing vessels which are seen there today.
Layout Bee Design
Photography 70p Dr Martin Collins
80p, £1.05, £1.25 Andy Black
FDC Jennifer Lee
Printer Cartor Security Printing
Process Stochastic Lithography
Perforation 13¼ x 13¼ per 2cms
Stamp size 24 x 60mm
Sheet Layout 10
Release date 15 August, 2017
Production Co-ordination Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd