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Bird Island Research Station BI — History

Bird Island Discovery

Bird Island was discovered by Captain James Cook in 1775, who sighted and named Bird Island “on account of the vast numbers [of birds] that were upon it”. The uninhabited Willis Islands, 3.2km west of Bird Island, were also named during this expedition after the first crew member who sighted the islands.

Sealers were present throughout South Georgia in the late nineteenth century and signs of their presence on Bird Island is seen in the Sealer’s Cave, beneath Cave Crag, close to Freshwater Beach.

Initial Buildings 1950s – 1970s

Jordan Cove was used by summer parties from 1957–1964 and from 1971–1982. Biologists began monitoring seabirds on the island and some of the first birds ringed at Bird Island are still alive today. The first permanent hut was established on 24 November 1958 by the Falkland Islands Government. It was known as Bonner’s Bothy, after W N Bonner, biologist 1953–1986 and Deputy Director, BAS 1986–1988.

In December 1962 the United States Antarctic Research Program (USARP) established 2 huts which were later used by BAS. One of these, used as an accommodation hut, was known as Lönnberg House after the Swedish biologist Einar Lönnberg who expressed great concern at the amount of sealing and whaling on South Georgia in 1906.

Lonnberg House, 1976 - Lar Roche in background  Bonners Bothy, Bird Island, - post 1957

Developing Infrastructure 1980s – 1990s

Prince House, Bird Island, 1981 - middle distance view of complexA new hut was constructed in October 1981 for wintering staff. Following the Argentine invasion of South Georgia, the first wintering party were evacuated on 1 April 1982 by HMS Endurance. The base was re-opened on 22 September 1982 following the cessation of hostilities. The new building was named Beck House after Rolla Howard Beck, an American biologist who made extensive collections of birds around the Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego and the Galapagos Islands between 1912–1917. This building provided accommodation, laboratory and office space for up to 8 people.

A further building containing laboratories, a workshop and storage areas was added in the 1995/96 season. An extension to Beck House was established a year later in the 1996/97 season, housing upgraded accommodation (double bedrooms). Other improvements included an improved water collection and treatment system.

To commemorate Pete Prince, BAS seabird biologist 1971–1998 and Officer in Charge of Bird Island Station 1993–1998, the newly extended Base was renamed Prince House in 1998/99. The storage building was then named Beck House.

Redevelopment 2005

Between January and June 2005 a redevelopment programme was completed by our construction partners Morrison PLC. BAS staff moved into the new building, subsequently named Prince House, in June 2005. The old Prince House was demolished in November 2005 and the demolition and clean up waste removed from site in January 2006, leaving the current station facility.

Prince House, Bird Island, 2006

Field huts and hides have existed at one time or other at the following sites, close to breeding seabird and seal colonies:Prince House, 1998 - middle distance view of complex

  • Gazella Peak
  • Molly Hill
  • Wanderer Ridge
  • Johnson Gentoo Colony
  • Top Meadows (two locations)
  • Colony B
  • Special Study Beach
  • Colony J
  • Fairy Point