South Georgia is one of the most important breeding and nesting grounds in the Antarctic region. In recent decades, the island’s seabird population has been increasingly threatened by rats introduced to the area by sealing and whaler ships of the past.
'Over the years, they have spread across much of the island, feeding on seabird eggs and destroying nesting areas,' said Jørn Henriksen, Hurtigruten’s environmental manager. Seabirds including storm petrels, prions, blue and diving petrels began to disappear.
When the South Georgian Heritage Trust launched an ambitious rescue mission to aid the bird population in 2007, Hurtigruten stepped up to help by holding the Fram auctions. Souvenirs auctioned to passengers have included the captain’s uniform jacket, the ship's flag and the chart, signed by the navigation officer, that shows the Fram's course.
Henriksen said the auction proceeds have financed the fight against rat infestation in nesting sites covering more than 200 square kilometers in South Georgia.
For the first time in several decades, these regions are becoming a safe breeding and nesting area for the seabirds. Overall, rats have been eliminated from two-thirds of South Georgia’s 36,380 square kilometers of land. Ducks, pipits and other seabirds are returning to their traditional nesting areas.