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South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, also claimed by Argentina. They are administered from the Falkland Islands by UK civil commissioner Donald A. Lamont, representing Queen Elizabeth II. Defense is the responsibility of the United Kingdom. Since 1982, the territory celebrates Liberation Day on June 14. A constitution was adopted October 3, 1985. The legal system is based on English Common Law.

The research station at King Edward Point, near the former Norwegian whaling station of Grytviken, became a small military garrison after the Falklands War. This returned to civilian use in 2001 and is operated by the British Antarctic Survey. The British Antarctic Survey also has a biological station on Bird Island, off the northwest end of South Georgia. The South Sandwich Islands are uninhabited.

Grytviken is a popular stop for cruise ships visiting Antarctica, tourists usually land to visit Shackleton's grave. There is a small museum in part of the former whaling station.

South Georgia lies in the South Atlantic Ocean, about 900 miles south by east of the Falkland Islands, in 54-55°S, 36-38°W. It has a land area of 4066 square kilometers (1600 square miles). It is mountainous, with snowy peaks 6000 to 8000 feet high, their slopes furrowed with deep gorges filled with glaciers. Geologically, it consists of gneiss and argillaceous schists, with no trace of fossils, showing that the island is, like the Falkland Islands, a surviving fragment of some greater land-mass now vanished, most probably indicating a former extension of the Andean system. At Royal Bay, on the south-east side, was stationed the German expedition sent out to observe the transit of Venus in 1882. The island would be well suited for cattle or sheep farming but for its damp, foggy climate.

The climate in the islands is variable, with mostly westerly winds throughout the year interspersed with periods of calm; nearly all precipitation falls as snow. Most of the islands, rising steeply from the sea, are rugged and mountainous; South Georgia is largely barren and has steep, glacier-covered mountains; the South Sandwich Islands are of volcanic origin with some active volcanoes. Mount Paget on South Georgia is 2915 meters tall. The islands have prevailing weather conditions that generally make them difficult to approach by ship; they are also subject to active volcanism. The north coast of South Georgia has several large bays, which provide good anchorage; reindeer, introduced early in the 20th century, live on South Georgia.

Some fishing takes place in adjacent waters. There is a potential source of income from harvesting fin fish and krill. The islands receive income from postage stamps produced in the UK. The territory has revenues of less than $300,000 against expenditures of nearly $500,000. The territory uses data code SX, and has the Internet country code (top-level domain) GS.

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