A procession of king penguins; an elephant seal pup; an albatross with its chick on Ption Island north of South Georgia; and a fur seal at a onetime whaling station ..... imagine the beauty of this setting.

Sally Pocet first visited South Georgia in 1977. Back then, she said, the sub-Antarctic was gorgeous as it is today: Aspine of mountains defines the terrain; glaciers drape the slopes with verdant forests running up to meet them; glistening beaches wrap the shoreline.

But in those days, Ms. Poncet recalled, the island had an empty feel to it. ''You felt a lack,'' she explained. ''It wasn't alive, like you knew it could be.''

Nobody knows South Georgia as Ms. Poncet does. An independent field ecologist, she has surveyed or counted its grasses, albatrosses and elephant seals, among other things. Her second son was born on a sail boat there in 1979. Now at the age of 69, she continues to work in the field - just as she did 45 years ago.

The first to explore the island - and to plant a flag - was Capt James Cook, in 1775. He called it ''savage and horrible,'' but he also found millions of Antarctic fur seals lining the beaches, prompting a rush to harvest their pelts.

Sealers arrived in 1786; over the next century millions of animals were killed, their fur turned into luxury items such as top hats. As a result, the fur seal was almost wiped out.

Hunters also killed southern elephant seals, including the enormous bulls that can reach 8,000 pounds, 3, 625 kilograms. Their blubber was converted into oil.

The hunting continued into the 1960s. As both of these species disappeared, so, too, did their barks and roars - and the beaches grew quieter and quieter.

South Georgia is part of remote British-Overseas Territory with no permanent population. It sits on the northern edge of the Southern Ocean over 900 miles, or 1,450 kilometers, northeast of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and almost 900 miles east of the Falkland Islands.

Its history reads like a list of offenses against nature, including commercial whaling and the introduction of nonnative species, including rats and reindeer.

Now hunting is history and the invasive mammals have been eradicated and Ms. Poncet and her colleagues are witnessing a remarkable ecological recovery.

The scientific literature delivers a muted version of it, but in listening to the scientists - who are driven by data and not prone to hyperbole -  their joy and wonder comes tumbling out. Among the terms they used describe the island's revival : ''miraculous,'' ''spectacular,'' "really emotional'' and it's a beacon of hope.''

In the era of climate change, nothing is that simple. But the rebirth of this island is really observable. All you have to do is listen.

Whaling at South Georgia began with Carl Anton Larsen, a Norwegian captain and businessman who established a settlement called Grytviken in 1904. Mr. Larsen and his crew killed their first whale on Christmas Eve, and by the end of that season they had caught 183 whales, primarily hump backs, without ever leaving the bay.

Over the next 60 years a handful shore-based stations processed 175, 250 whales, a figure that DOESN'T INCLUDE the pelagic factory ships  -large oceangoing vessels that could process whole carcasses entirely on board - that operated with impunity through out the Southern Ocean.

The harvest left blue whales, the largest animal known to have ever existed, critically endangered.

When whaling in South Georgia ended for good in 1965, it left behind a largely silent ocean.

Major human impacts continued on land.

Larsen took reindeer to South Georgia.

While glaciers, which act as natural partitions, confined the animals to two of South Georgia's peninsulas, their population still grew steadily, especially after the station closed. In many places the reindeer trampled the fragile landscape.

Rats and mice accompanied the sealers and whalers.

Rats in particular found plenty of bird eggs and chicks to feed on, including those of two endemic species : the South pintail, a small duck; and the South Georgia pipit, the island's only songbird. The songs were silenced.

The Publishing continues to Part 2.  The World Students Society thanks authors Eric Guth and Jennifer Kingsley.


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