The loneliness of the South Atlantic

It is not easy to find positive comment written about South Georgia during the late Victorian or Edwardian period. “A barren snow-covered island in the South Atlantic, lying 800 miles ESE of the Falklands”, says one source from 1889, invitingly, adding as an afterthought “sterile and uninhabited”. Yet every possession in the British Empire needed its administrators and South Georgia, acquired in 1833 and annexed to the Falkland Islands, was no exception. There was no native population (other than that of penguins) to rule over, but there were itinerant sealers and whalers and, from 1909, that required the appointment of a magistrate.

The image below is taken from the passenger list of a January 1926 voyage of the Coronda from Glasgow to South Georgia Island. As he sailed to the end of the earth, the only passenger on board, 34-year old bachelor William Barlas of Pitlochry must have wondered what he had done to deserve his posting, and been grateful for the plentiful supply of long johns that his female relatives had knitted for him.

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