Shag Rocks (South Georgia)

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Shag Rocks, Aurora Islands
SGI-2016-South Georgia–Shag Rocks 01.jpg
The Shag Rocks
Coordinates53°33′S 42°02′W / 53.550°S 42.033°W / -53.550; -42.033
ArchipelagoSouth Georgia
Area20 ha (49 acres)
Highest elevation75 m (246 ft)

The Shag Rocks (Spanish: Islas Aurora) are six small islands in the westernmost extreme of South Georgia, 240 km (150 mi) west of the main island of South Georgia and 1,000 km (620 mi) off the Falkland Islands. The Shag Rocks are located at 53°33′S 42°02′W / 53.550°S 42.033°W / -53.550; -42.033. 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) further southeast is Black Rock. Black Rock is located at 53°39′S 41°48′W / 53.650°S 41.800°W / -53.650; -41.800 (Black Rock).

The Shag Rocks cover a total area of less than 20 hectares (49 acres). Situated on the South Georgia Ridge, they have a peak elevation above sea level of 75 metres (246 ft), and stand in water approximately 319 metres (1,047 ft) deep. Temperatures average −1.2 °C (29.8 °F), rarely climbing above 15 °C (59 °F). There is no significant vegetation.

The main wildlife found on the islands are the South Georgia shags, prions and wandering albatrosses.

The Shag Rocks were discovered by Jose de la Llana in 1762 with the Spanish ship Aurora, and originally named the Aurora Islands, after his ship. They were visited by the Spanish ship San Miguel in 1769, again by the Aurora in 1774, and in 1779 by the Princesa and the Dolores. In 1794 the Auroras were finally mapped by the Spanish corvette Atrevida. However, the Aurora Islands are considered by many to have been a mistaken sighting that was coincidentally near the Shag Rocks, which were known to sealers prior to 1823[citation needed]. They were later rediscovered by James P. Sheffield and given their current name, probably because shags and other seabirds frequent them. They were charted by Discovery Investigations personnel on the William Scoresby in 1927. The first landing on the islands was made in 1956 when Argentine geologist Mario Giovinetto was lowered from a helicopter to collect rock samples.


The Shag Rocks are uninhabited and so lack any active administration. They form part of the British overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Before 1985 they came within the Falkland Islands Dependencies.

Argentina also lays claim to many islands of the area, including Black Rock and Shag Rocks. The Falklands War of 1982 was fought by Britain and Argentina not only over the territories of the Falkland Islands, but also over South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Black Rock and Shag Rocks are on the route from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia Island, on a seamount of Scotia Ridge.

Britain won the 1982 Falklands War, and in 1985 formed its overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which includes Black Rock and Shag Rocks. It now assumes responsibility for preservation and defence of the area.

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