We love it when a plan comes together.

South Georgia Location The SMSG team completed a successful expedition to South Georgia, exploring the subtidal (depths down to 18m) and intertidal (between high to low tide marks) habitats along this remote island’s north coast.  Great weather, fantastic support aboard the MV Pharos and at King Edward Point research station, and an enthusiastic team of divers resulted in a highly productive expedition with many exiting findings and valuable baseline biodiversity data collected. 


Although there have been various localised studies in the past, not since the Discovery Expeditions of 1925 has the island’s marine habitats been explored in such detail and over such a wide geographic extent.

 Diver Kelp  

The team surveyed 25 sites between Bird Island in the north-west and Cooper Bay in the south-east, and three depth zones at each site, totalling over 64 hours spent in the 0 deg. C waters.

We collected 4347 specimens of marine invertebrates, including 120 sponge samples and 160 seaweed samples.

The team gathered quantitative photos for species and habitat diversity analyses, macro-photographs for future guidebooks, and couldn’t resist taking some amazing photos of the playful and inquisitive fur seals that accompanied the team on every dive.

  Divers were often visited by fur seals.    



At most sites, forests of bladder kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) and the large, trailing Himantothallus grandifolius algae dominated the seabed, providing multi-storied habitats for a huge array of striped topshells, giant red sea spiders, giant isopods, limpets, sea cucumbers, colourful sea slugs, and a variety of starfish. 

Pycnogonid (sea spider)

Beautiful overhangs and rock walls were also encountered, covered in a vibrant array of sea squirts, anemones and sponges. Intertidal surveys of seaweeds and animals also proved interesting, recording many previously unreported species.

These data will greatly improve our understanding of the South Georgia marine habitats; they will aid in future planning, managing, and monitoring of South Georgia’s natural resources, and have already generated interesting questions for future research in the region.

 Diver photographing overhang.    

Visiting scientist Dr Emma Wells (algae, Wells Marine) and Dr Claire Goodwin (sponges, National Museums Northern Ireland) joined the group for the expedition, and noted many interesting new and potentially endemic species of seaweeds and sponges.  

 Lace Coral  

Claire was particularly excited to encounter the ‘volcano sponge’ Rosella sp. in shallow waters, belonging to a group of sponges called glass sponges that are normally encountered only in depths over 200m, but due to the fjordic nature of the South Georgia environments were found here in only 8m. 

Bryozoan (lace coral)

 The SMSG South Georgia team: Dr Paul Brewin, Dr Emma Wells, Steve Brown, Dr Paul Brickle, Dion Poncet, Steve Cartwright, Dr Judith Brown and Dr Claire Goodwin.

Support for the survey was provided by the South Georgia Government, Darwin Initiative, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, British Antarctic Survey, the Shackleton Scholarship Fund, South Georgia Heritage Trust, Byron Marine Ltd, Neil McKay Ltd, and Sullivan Shipping Ltd.  This is just the first phase of the South Georgia project; the results we’ve had to date show that there is still much learn about this unique part of the world, not to mention South Georgia’s yet to be visited southern coast! 

For a full report on the Expedition please download here.


SMSG also extends their gratitude for the valuable support by Oceanic and Polar Bears:

 Oceanic    Polar Bear

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