1982 - First English Invasion to Argentine Morrel Island - South Thule Group

In Morrel Island South Thule Group, the Argentina Navy began operating the Corvette Uruguay Scientific Station on November 7, 1976 when disembarking at the site and began studies of the base by personnel from Navy Building Battalion.

The ships arrived at the place several times during the 4-month construction. the Research Station was a series of huts with a helicopter hangar, an airstrip and several radio masts. The whole base could accommodate up to 40 people. It consisted of three main parts which were the main house, and between the emergency both the house of Service where generators, pantry, boilers, machinery, etc are. These three parts were united by a semicircular duct section dubbed the "Cañoducto" which allows internal traffic between houses without leave or be subject to snowfall and stormy outdoor snow. There was also a reservoir, a shelter of meteorological instruments and a mast for the flag.

Corvette Uruguay was installed in the peninsula Morrell, a small strip of land out of the central volcano to the east, which offered some protection from westerly winds.

The station was officially opened on 18 March 1977.La station was evacuated but returned to be occupied during the next Campaign 1977-1978 permanently.

Operation Keyhole, the English invasion of Morrel Island - South Thule

Forces members:


Frigate HMS "Yarmouth"

Icebreaker HMS "Endurance" with 2 Wessex 5 helicopters

RAF supply ship "Olmeda".

RAF Tug "Salvageman".

16 Marines of Company M of 42C

Gunmen Blowpipe SAM missile


10 military scientists, meteorologists, oceanographers, hydrographic surveyors, etc.. (7 Navy and 3 of the Argentine Air Force)

Someone described the operation to take South Thule as "tidying up the back of beyond." You could say that the Malvinas crisis began here in 1976 and was concluded with M 42 and Command "Operation Keyhole" Company.

According to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which froze all territorial dispute for 30 years, was admissible to Argentine installed bases in the frozen continent, but not in South Thule. The Argentines were in Thule at least since 1976 and probably would have been there if they had not decided to take South Georgia and the Malvinas.

 The island of South Thule is an exceptionally unpleasant site. Very few people were there in the history of the South Atlantic, and those who did were not too long, and even less back.

This unpleasant and nasty island became the arena of the first and last act of this war, although these acts would be less like a war, because the Antarctic climate forces the struggle for survival predominates above all. In the last years of the seventies, no one knows exactly when, a small group of Argentines traveled to South Thule aboard the icebreaker ARA "General San Martín" (already radiated of service and predecessor of the ARA "Almirante Irizar"). The purpose of this group was to install a weather research station and similar to many that Argentine has in Antarctica and the same nature as the seasons of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS British Antarctic Research Institute).

Besides the value of weather information that provided the station Argentina, since this little scientist had three political benefits for the goverment.

First, the base challenged the British claims that it had effective government. on what they called Falkland Island Dependencies (dependencies of the Malvinas Islands)

Second, Argentina strengthened the position to become a tangible demonstration of the interest of Argentine to develop that part of the world.

Finally, the base on Southern Thule established in strategically important if Antarctica was transformed into an area suitable for exploitation.

When the British discovered that their own BAS station at the South Sandwich was not the only one on the islands, they faced a problem. Could force the Argentine to leave the islands with the possibility that this could cause a backlash from the Argentina, which was quite excited with the dispute over the Malvinas (and it should be remembered that agitation arose around the landing of a group , also reduced in South Georgia was the trigger for the occupation Argentina) or, alternatively, you could ignore this minor incident and continue negotiations. Many years later the M Company 42 Commando arrived in South Georgia after the end of the second alternative.

Nott asked June 7, 1982 if there was any plan for the disposal of this Argentina presence. Once the Malvinas Islands had been successfully captured, the Defense Ministry considered that the presence in southern Argentina in Thule would be "political disorder" that could complicate the negotiations after a cease-fire. There was little update on the size of the presence Argentina information. The latest indication was obtained in January 1981, when the Argentine icebreaker "Almirante Irizar" refueled the base as part of the tasks of the 1981-1982 Antarctic campaign. It was unlikely that scientific personnel - military had nothing but light infantry weapons.

At 2335Z on 14 June, the CINCFLEET issued an Alert order for the recovery of South Thule.

On June 15, the Admiral Woodward suggests that HMS Endurance trying to establish communications with the island and have a message indicating that all staff will be collected or otherwise South Thule will be attacked and taken by the overwhelming force.

Woodward ordered the deployment of Endurance, Olmeda, Yarmouth and two Wessex 5 for the task, although the commander in South Georgia held that Endurance to do work only with the support of the tug Salvageman, 16 Marines from Company M, 42 Commando, a Wessex 5 helicopter Blowpipe SAM, this was expected given the likely opposition and more specifically the probable / ice conditions while.

Later that day Endurance establish communications with the South Thule, where the Argentines say the ship was in Argentine waters and Southern Thule was a scientific station. The Endurane said that to avoid further bloodshed Thule South must yield to the forces that are going to disembark, or the alternative was an attack of overwhelming force.

On June 16, Woodward remembers the deployment of Yarmouth and Olmeda. Another message was sent in the direction of the Argentina side were on the island without permission and that events in the Malvinas Islands had shown the British resolution.

Fieldhouse is concerned that any plan for the use of just the Endurance was too risky and that the "overwhelming force" would be better represented if all ships sail to South Thule. The Endurance by itself could not provide fire support if necessary. The message ended: "it is necessary to remove any argument resuming them, now is an opportunity that may never happen again without much opposition of world opinion."

At 1541Z noted that the Order of Operation for the occupation of Thule and Keyhole codeword assigned to the operation.

On 17 June at 0230Z Yarmouth / Olmeda detached from support group to South Georgia, where they picked up the commandos. The HMS Antrim and a small detachment would be in charge of the islands. Meanwhile HMS Endurance sailed in company with RFA Salvageman where they arrived June 19 south of Thule. As it was not possible to establish a defense from that base and as the Task Force sailed south to the Argentine's imminent arrival of the Royal Marines was warned by messages sent by international radio frequencies.

No British leadership knew about the opposition they could find in the adventure, the experience of knowing that the submarine ARA Santa Fe had carried troops and supplies to Georgia and never knowing the whereabouts of his brother, the ARA Santiago del Estero (hidden in Mar del Plata for the British to believed he was operating on the high seas) could assume that the base could have been improved. Even with this assumption the surprise attack did not matter in this case. What it was important was the protection of the fury of the elements and if the Argentines the frigate HMS Yarmouth surrendered peacefully was willing to destroy the Argentine cabins with 114 mm cannons. On an island where the wind made the wind chill down to 50 ° C / below zero, there was little need to fight.

A patrol of ten men Recognition Station who were in the Endurance landed on June 19 to recognize the place through various simulated landings to confuse the Argentines.

The Argentines were aware that the British were in the area and by messages transmitted by Endurance helicopters were encouraged to surrender because there was a substantial force. The English in their first recognition notice that Argentines are burning things (wasdocumentation and confidential papers).

For 0400 20 June all British ships were in position NW of Thule. The Endurance warns Argentines have until 11:30 to surrender. After a night and a day of observation extremely uncomfortable (even for trained men to operate in Arctic), the patrol moved toward the base, the Argentines to see this advance over the movement of ships and helicopters offshore motivated for them to surrender just two minutes before the bombing began his Yarmouth. 12:24 A staff Argentina surrenders to the survey team of the Company 42.

After a formal surrender surrender, at 18:00 pm the English team conducted a search of the base, to present evidence that was part of a weather network but Argentina besides just ten men on base, nine military scientists (already the rest had been evacuated), books of codes and communications equipment had been destroyed.

They used the postmark Radiopostal Office letters and postcards documenting their presence in the scientific station (the later destination with giving him the stamps is unknown). With the danger of being caught by the ever present ice, the group quickly gathered the evidence found, it took pictures of the place and the prisoners climbed aboard and headed Olmeda South Georgia arriving June 24.

This action provided an opportunity again to great headlines in the British tabloids. Now on the flag of the Union Jack fluttered in their original places.

In December 1982 a British research vessel arrived the Sandwich Islands to inspect the abandoned foundation and to his surprise found waving Argentina flag on the mast where they had left theirs.

In February 1983, two warships were sent to blow up the facility leaving only a shelter. Since then the island is regularly visited by British naval patrols and occasional amateur groups interested in making communication so isolated from the world as this place.