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12 facts about South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands – where you could be the first LGBTI couple to wed

12 facts about South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands – where you could be the first LGBTI couple to wed

The penguins of South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands

In England and Wales, marriage equality came into effect in 2014. But what of the 14 British Overseas Territories around the world?

The short answer? The situation varies from territory to territory. It’s legal in The British Antarctic Territory, for example. However, in Monserrat and Anguilla, it is not. Meanwhile, in Bermuda, the situation is getting increasingly complicated

One territory where it’s crystal clear, though, is South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

We’ll say it upfront: we’re suddenly obsessed with this otherworldly chain of icy islands.

Found deep in the Southern Atlantic, this tiny, sub-Antarctic land is located 1,390km southeast of the Falkland Islands, and 2,150km from South America.

The islands are known for their inhospitable living conditions. Think a relentless, punishing climate and ruggedly mountainous terrain.

As such, the permanent population is officially zero (discounting wildlife). But that doesn’t mean you can’t get married here!

In fact, same-sex marriage was legalized in 2014 – although the Foreign Office only recently updated its travel advice website page to include a note about it.

Furthermore, the FO today confirmed to GSN that no same-sex weddings have taken place in the territory yet. So don you most romantic thermals and you could be the first!

Below, we share some more quick-fire facts about this intriguing, snowy wonderland…

1 You’ll find people here sometimes – but not many

In other words, a ‘transient population’. Polar scientists, mainly from the British Antarctic Survey, sometimes stay on South Georgia island.

You may also find Government Officials, tourists and, if you’re lucky, one or two staff manning the South Georgia Museum… More on which later.

For a fascinating insight into island life, check out the official Twitter feed here.

2 It is, however, home to a rich array of wildlife

King penguins, albatrosses, seals… And believe it or not, reindeer, introduced by humans in the 20th century.

3 It’s even richer in marine life

Whales, toothfish and fauna are a common sight.

4 The main island of South Georgia is around 170km long

This makes it similar in size to Rhode Island. Ice covers half its 3,755 km2 land mass.

5 Its tallest mountain, Mt Paget clocks in at 2,934m

This is the highest point across the UK mainland and all territories. Take that, Ben Nevis! (Height: 1,345 m).

6 It’s possible to visit South Georgia by cruise vessel or yacht

However, there’s nowhere to stay on the island. That said, it’s possible to camp on the shore. (Weather and seals permitting).

7 The South Sandwich Islands are a chain of 11 small volcanic islands

The conditions here are even harsher than on South Georgia. They’re rarely visited by humans.

8 South Georgia’s ‘capital’ is King Edward Point

Government Officers are sometimes based here. They are responsible for local administration on the island.

9 The Government proper is based in the Falkland Islands

It’s entirely self-sustaining, owing to the islands’ thriving toothfish industry.

10 Another ‘settlement’ is Grytviken

It may look like a tiny, lived in village – but it’s essentially a series of abandoned whaling factory buildings, active from 1904 to 1964

11 Grytviken is home to the South Georgia Museum. The director lives here 6 months a year

The museum focuses on whaling and Antarctic exploring. The director, Sarah Lurcock, has managed it for 20 years, according to the official website. Other staff work sporadically on the island, but most work remotely around the world.

12 Ernest Shackleton’s grave is in Grytviken

He returned to the island after it played an important role in the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-17). This was the first attempt to cross the Antarctic, led by Shackleton.

The group had to travel by life boat to Elephant Island when their ship hit ice. Shackleton and five others then traveled 800 miles to Southern Georgia. After crossing the island on foot, they were able to raise alarm at the whaling factory.

Their journey has become emblematic of endurance (the name of the ship) and the human spirit.

Shackleton headed back to South Georgia to embark on another expedition a few years later. However, he died of a heart attack at the age of 47 on 5 January 1922.

For more information, visit the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands government website.