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Chapter Five CRISIS OVER SOUTH GEORGIA The View from Stanley This time the British response came in hours rather than weeks. The failure to observe the rules was not now seen as a one-off incident; rather it was interpreted as consistent with an observable pattern. Hunt's immediate assessment of the Argentine landing was that it was part of a surreptitious attempt to establish a permanent presence on South Georgia. In this view he was supported by two other key figures - Nicholas Barker, Captain of HMS Endurance, and Lord Buxton, a peer with a longstanding interest in the South Adantic who had been a leading figure in the campaign to save Endurance and was now visiting Stanley. The second Davidoff visit to Leith demonstrated a complete disregard for the agreed procedures for arrivals at South Georgia, despite the strong protests that had been made after the December incident. He had been warned about unauthorized landings and yet here he was doing it again. The pattern of activity noted in Stanley was not confined to the Davidoff visits. Also to be considered was the visit of the Panamanianregistered yacht, Caiman, to Leith with its Argentine crew and some link to the Davidoff contract. There had also been three overflights of South Georgia by Argentine Hercules aircraft in early 1982 - the last on 11 March. While such overflights were quite regular, those in 1982 seemed to indicate a disturbing amount of interest in South Georgia. 49 Crisis Lastly, the conduct of both the Almirante Irizar and the Bahia Buen Suceso, especially in maintaining radio silence, excited suspicions. To Hunt, Barker and Buxton the evidence pointed to an Argentine attempt to repeat their success in establishing a presence in South Thule. The Argentine Navy had called the shots over South Thule and they seemed to be calling them again now* The first Davidoff visit had taken place at the same time of the year as the South Thule landing and it had taken even longer to lodge an official protest. Perhaps the Argentine Government had drawn the conclusion from the weak response to the December landing that the Thule success might be repeated. Buxton had gained the impression from talks with Costa Mendez while in Buenos Aires a few weeks earlier that while invasion was discounted as an option there might well be unopposed landings.1 For his part Barker had been expecting such an attempt for some time. His experiences over recent months had rendered him suspicious of the Argentine Navy. Barker had met Captain Trombetta, Commander of the Antarctic Naval Squadron and then in charge of the Almirante Irizar not long before the first Davidoff visit to South Georgia and had been given a programme for the Irizar which contained no mention of South Georgia; in early January he had again met Trombetta and this time had been told that the Irizar was on its way to the Antarctic Belgrano base when in fact it was headed for South Thule. Later that month he had visited Ushuaia, where he received a cold reception and was told that he was in a war zone. This was said to be more a reflection of concern with Chile than with Britain, but the 'Malvinas' factor was not absent.2 According to one account: 'Hunt and Barker were agreed that the * Intelligence in 1977 indicated that the Argentine presence was the result of a naval initiative. It had involved more personnel than admitted and was to have been made public in March 1977 if it had not been discovered. A stronger British reaction had been expected and the Navy had made contingency plans for this. Franks, para. 54. The initiative had in fact been taken by Admiral Massera, Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. Massera was later accused of unduly politicizing the Navy and of developing plans for the recovery of territories disputed with both Chile and Great Britain. He had political aspirations of his own and, although on good terms with the deposed President Isabel Peron, he became a member of the 1976 Junta. 50 Crisis over South Georgia landing by Davidoff s employees was nothing more than a cover for the establishment of an Argentine navy beachhead on South Georgia, leading later to assertions of sovereignty over the whole island. Their view was supported by Lord Buxton.'3 In discussing a response, in addition to a stiff protest, they felt that Endurance should be sent to South Georgia. The counter-argument was...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400861583
MARC Record
OCLC
889251506
Pages
512
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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