- Languages of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
The only official language of the
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islandsis English, and this is spoken by almost everyone on a day to day basis. The islands' population is currently transient, and there has never been any native South Georgians, although a handful of people have been born there.
English has been used throughout the recorded history of South Georgia, from the earliest explorations by
Anthony de la Rochéand James Cookto the present day. It is used for the territory's administration, postage stamps and various other purposes.
The majority of the area's toponyms are either in English or anglicised, and have been given by both British and American explorers - e.g. Bird Island, Grass Island,
Echo Pass, Gold Harbourand many others.
Latin is used in the motto of the islands - "Leo Terram Propriam Protegat" meaning "May the Lion protect his own land". It also appears on the church at Grytviken.
Several languages have been used historically in South Georgia.
Norwegian was used in South Georgia mainly by the numerous whalers.
Norwegian's main legacy is in a sizeable number of placenames, including
Hestesletten("Horse's Plain"), Skrap Skerries("skrapskjaer" or "skrapskjar"), Trollhuland Elsehul. A couple of whaling stations had Norwegian names- Husvik(house bay) and Godthul(good hollow).
The first person to be born in South Georgia (and south of the
Antarctic Convergence), Solveig Gunbjørg Jacobsenwould have been a Norwegian speaker. The settlement Grytviken (which is a "Swedish" name) was founded by Carl Anton Larsen, another Norwegian speaker.
Russian was used by some explorers, such as Bellinghausen, and is retained in placenames such as
Visokoi Island("высокий" meaning "high"), Zavodovski and Kupriyanov Islands("Mys Kupriyanov") and Annenkov Island.
Compañía Argentina de Pescaoperated in Grytvikenuntil about 1960.
The Argentine naval station
Corbeta Uruguaywas clandestinely built on Thule Island, South Sandwich Islands on 7 November 1976, in the wake of many protests. At an early stage of the Falklands War, 32 special forcestroops from Corbeta Uruguay were brought by the Argentine Navy ship "Bahía Paraiso" to South Georgia and landed at Leith Harbouron March 25, 1982. During this period, Argentina would have used Spanish "officially". However, Argentine control was not complete, and the Argentines in South Georgia surrendered to the British on April 25, 1982.
Spanish does not feature much in the official toponomy of the islands, other than the names of scientific bases, and
Carlita Bay; however, a number of placenames have Spanish equivalents, e.g. Vindication Islandis "Isla Vindicación".
Swedish is closely related to and often mutually intelligible with Norwegian.
Grytviken(Pot Bay) and Maiviken(Majviken -May Bay) derive from Swedish.
Numerous other languages would have been used by explorers, whalers, sealers etc in the vicinity, these would include Lowland Scots (along with some Scottish placenames), and German (retained in placenames such as
Bertrab Glacierand Brocken).
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