During the operation of whaling stations between 1904 and 1965, a variety of animals were brought to South Georgia. Two, the brown rat and house mouse, were introduced accidentally.
Most were brought to the island to provide fresh food. These included reindeer, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, geese and even pigeons. Some were allowed to roam free but only reindeer have thrived in the wild. A few horses were used for haulage and there was an attempt at Grytviken to breed fur foxes for their pelts. At Prince Olav Harbour, carrier pigeons conveyed messages from whale-catcher boats about their arrival with whales for processing in the factory.
This vervet monkey from Africa may have been bought to South Georgia on a ship coming from Cape Town. It was a pet of the doctor at the Husvik whaling station in 1914. It wore a harness and was taken for walks on a lead.
Anne-Marie Sørlle, daughter of the manager of the Stromness whaling station, with a litter of puppies. She was allowed to keep one as a pet because there were no other children on South Georgia for her to play with.
Two whalers show off their pets in their room at Grytviken around 1925. The man on the right has a fox which is being restrained by a collar and chain. This is a unique record of a fox being kept as a pet on the island. It is probably a grey fox or grey zorro, which could have been acquired in a South American port.
Nan Brown ran a ‘penguin rehabilitation centre’ at King Edward Point to rescue birds fouled with heavy fuel oil. After cleaning they were kept in a pen to recover. One of the gentoo penguins became a pet when it refused to leave after being released. Stugie (an anagram of Gutsie) had a damaged wing and could not fend for itself. It accompanied Nan around the settlement and visited the house daily but, not being house-trained, it was not allowed to stay inside for long. It would follow her to the jetty where she caught fish to feed its prodigious appetite.
The inappropriately named Mrs Chippy is the most famous of Antarctic cats. He was the pet of ‘Chippy’ McNish, the carpenter on Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, and perished on the ice after the ship had been crushed.
Semi-wild cats were common at the whaling stations. They were mostly dependent on human habitation, especially in winter, and were useful in helping keep down the rats that infested the buildings. Cats died out at the whaling stations soon after they were abandoned in the 1960s but some survived at the King Edward Point settlement until 1980.
Sir Ernest Shackleton baths Query aboard Quest on the way to South Georgia in 1922. The German shepherd pup had been presented to him as a mascot when the ship visited Plymouth. Query was lost overboard during the expedition.
Dogs, including sledge dogs left by passing expeditions, were a common sight around the whaling stations. Most were under the control of their owners but a few lived and bred wild. The last dog on South Georgia died in 1974.
Title: Pets – South Georgia
Date of Issue: 15 February 2011
Country: South Georgia
Denominations: 45p, 60p, 70p, 95p, £1.15, £1.20