Grytviken was home to the largest whaling station on South Georgia, part of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, in the South Atlantic. The whaling station was founded in 1904 by Carl Larson, a Norwegian Sea Captain – by 1966 the whaling station had ceased to be viable and closed. South Georgia no longer has permanent residents although a few people occupy and service the museum during the summer season.
The images I have chosen will show a little more of this isolated place, a place where Shackleton started his Endurance bid to traverse Antarctica, and also where he died and is buried – with Frank Wild (Shackleton’s Second in Command) whose ashes were placed next to him in 2011.
On the day we steamed into Grytviken, 1 December 2016, I was up very early as I wanted to share the journey that Shackleton had made on Endurance on 5 November 1914.
Icebergs and leaden seas gave way to the approach into Grytviken.
Our first stop on making landfall in our zodiac was to run the gauntlet through the Fur Seals guarding the beach. We moved as quickly as possible towards the cemetery on the hill, making our way through the welcoming party, banging stones to ward them off! A member of the ship’s crew said a few words as we all toasted Shackleton with whisky, throwing any remains on the grave.
Apart from being the stop off point for Antarctic travellers and the final resting place of Shackleton and Wild, Grytviken was a highly-successful whaling station, as well as providing local knowledge about the ice conditions for Shackleton and other visitors. The remains of the industry litters Grytviken today.
As our day in Grytviken came to a close we made our way to the Norwegian Anglican Church, built in 1913 and locally-known as the Whalers’ Church.
The ship’s musician started the concert by singing Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen – and whilst not a fan, it was a hugely moving moment for all of us (particularly since he had recently died). As I remembered Shackleton and his heroic achievement of returning home with all of his men from Endurance, I looked forward to the next few days. We would visit Stromness on South Georgia (also a former whaling station) where Shackleton returned to civilisation in May 1916, and Elephant Island, and specifically the beach where Shackleton left some of his crew while he and a small group continued onto South Georgia to raise the alarm.
Enjoyed reading this having just watched Shackleton’s Captain documentary on Prime. It had both footage from the expedition’s camera man as well as re shot footage from Elephant Island and South Georgia. There were some differences: this film emphasised Worsley’s role in things, whereas other books state his influence/importance was lower, but that’s to be expected given the name of the film! Hope you’re both well and thanks for the beautiful photos, Claire
Many thanks for the recommendation – I haven’t seen the documentary on Prime – now is the ideal time to watch as lockdown in Scotland continues. . .
Thanks also for your comments. I just wrote the Grytviken post on a whim as the memories had come flooding back but I am thinking I could do further posts in a similar vein.
Hope you are both well and dogs too.
Impressive images in Remembering Grytviken, they capture the beauty, loneliness and desolation especially in the shot of the church and the rusting hulks. Really atmospheric.
Thanks John. I have decided to write a few more posts of this type – remembering places significant to Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition.