Salisbury Plain by Deirdre Mitchell

Client profile -

Preserving a sub-Antarctic Paradise

Our clients are extraordinary and one of the many privileges of supporting them is hearing their stories and how they impact the world.

Nick Prentice is an Arbuthnot Latham client who spent his career in the tax profession with Andersen and EY. Here he discusses his work as Chairman of the South Georgia Heritage Trust, a charity helping to preserve the incredible history and unique ecosystem of South Georgia, a tiny British sub-Antarctic island.

South Georgia is one of nature’s true paradises. It’s an incomparable island and my favourite place on earth.

Situated in the South Atlantic Ocean - nearly 900 miles east of the Falkland Islands – it’s still an adventure to get to South Georgia even today. With incredible snow and icy landscapes, the island is like a slice of the Alps dropped in the ocean. The light is exceptional and the abundant wildlife amazing: home to whales, seals and an astonishing 60 million seabirds, including globally important breeding grounds for several species of penguin and albatross.

Nick Prentice

The island will forever be associated with Sir Ernest Shackleton and the epic story of the Endurance, which the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) is currently focusing on with a new major project related to the expedition.  

After visiting the island, I became involved with the Trust after being taken aback by the abundance of wildlife in this sub-Antarctic sanctuary. Inspired by the charity’s mission to protect the island’s environment and heritage, I became a Trustee and have seen how SGHT has helped transform South Georgia, carrying out a decade-long Habitat Restoration Project (the largest ever successful island rodent eradication) which has saved millions of seabirds and the South Georgia Pipit from extinction and triggered a remarkable ecological recovery on island, leading Trust supporter Sir David Attenborough to publicly say:

South Georgia is a global rarity – an ecosystem in recovery and beacon of hope for conservation worldwide.” 

I am now honoured to be Chairman of SGHT as the charity enters its next important chapter.

Gold Harbour By Oli Prince

South Georgia and Shackleton

One of the most exciting projects currently relates to the most famous of Shackleton stories – the journey to South Georgia after Endurance was lost in the Weddell Sea.

On 20 May 1916, three men arrived unexpectedly at the Manager’s Villa in Stromness Whaling Station, South Georgia.  So surprised at seeing three dishevelled and emaciated strangers, the Station Manager was said to have asked: “Who the hell are you?

The three strangers were Frank Worsley, Tom Crean, and Sir Ernest Shackleton. Their journey to reach that small building on the island’s north coast was nothing short of extraordinary. Incredibly, the Manager’s Villa at Stromness still stands, but is in imminent danger of collapse.

Endurance had set sail 17 months earlier from Plymouth, bound for Antarctica via Argentina and South Georgia. The purpose of the ill-fated expedition was to complete the first crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole. But en-route, in the Weddell Sea the ship became trapped in the ice. The crew survived on Endurance for ten months until finally, it broke apart and they were forced to abandon ship and set up camp on the frozen sea around them.

King penguins in snow drift by Kerstin Langenberger
King penguins in snow drift by Kerstin Langenberger

The ice they were surviving on drifted north and began to break up. But they could see distant mountains and Shackleton took the decision to launch the lifeboats and sail north to Elephant Island. Ravaged with sickness and exhaustion, they battled through ice cold spray and choppy seas, making land six days later. It was the first time any of them had been on dry land for 497 days.

From there, after a period of recuperation, and knowing their chances of salvation were slim, Shackleton and five of the crew sailed more than 800 miles to South Georgia in a tiny lifeboat to seek help. The journey took 16 days and remains one of the most extraordinary documented small boat journeys in history.

The six arrived on the south side of South Georgia, but the whaling stations and help were on the north coast, so Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean had to cross the unmapped, mountainous icy interior to raise the alarm on the other side of the island. All the remaining crew were eventually rescued.

Stromness Manager's Villa by Rufus Harper Gow

Humpbacks feeding by Vivek Kumar
Humpbacks feeding by Vivek Kumar


South Georgia by Kerstin Langenberger
South Georgia by Kerstin Langenberger

Shackleton later returned to South Georgia in 1922 aboard the ship Quest en-route to Antarctica for what became his final expedition. Moored near Grytviken (where SGHT now manages the South Georgia Museum), he suffered a heart attack and died aged 47. He is buried at the cemetery in Grytviken, and almost all of the 10,000 visitors to South Georgia every year make the pilgrimage to his grave to pay their respects. The Trust’s Museum team help to maintain Shackleton’s grave, which is regularly visited by fur seals and elephant seals as well as humans paying tribute!

SGHT has worked on many projects related to Sir Ernest Shackleton over the years, but none more exciting than the one the charity is focusing on now, the plan to save the Stromness Manager’s Villa, where Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean reached on 20 May 1916 to raise alarm for rescue of the rest of the Endurance crew. It’s arguably the most important and famous Shackleton-related object worldwide after Endurance itself. The Trust has already raised £3million to undertake works to save the villa and is launching a public campaign to raise the final £500K needed. If you are interested in becoming a supporter and part of this project to save the villa, and to learn more about the opportunities associated which include a one-of-a-kind cruise to the island to mark saving the villa, please contact the trust directly by emailing Luke Smith, Director of Development

Grytviken by Deirdre Mitchell

Grytviken cemetery by Elsa

Beyond Shackleton – preserving cultural heritage

The Trust continues to support priority conservation and research projects at South Georgia delivered by partners such as British Antarctic Survey, RSPB, and Birdlife International. We also continue to undertake conservation of the island’s rich cultural heritage, especially at the South Georgia Museum – the world’s most remote museum – which SGHT has managed on behalf of the Government of South Georgia & The South Sandwich Islands for nearly twenty years.

In addition to Saving Shackleton Heritage, the Trust is working to install a whale memorial at Grytviken which will become the world’s most remote permanent artwork, and it’s establishing a digital catalogue to record the human stories from the South Georgia whaling years called the Whalers’ Memory Bank which has already secured substantial funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Blondie by Jerome Viard

Fur seal pups by Kerstin Langenberger

Museum pup by Jerome Viard

Albatross Chick by Kerstin Langenberger

Together these projects focused on preserving the island’s cultural heritage for future generations are collectively known as the Whaling Station Initiative, and many opportunities exist to get involved and support its delivery. Click the link below to find out more, and feel free to contact the Trust’s Director of Development Luke Smith

Find out more about South Georgia and the Whaling Station Initiative here.


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