Monday, 23 January 2012

Grytviken 19/1/2012 – afternoon landing

With much of its dangerous and toxic materials now removed, South Georgia’s first and longest-running whaling station, Grytviken, (1904-1965) is the only station that can still be visited today. Established by C.A. Larsen, every species of Antarctic whale were hunted, landed and processed for their oil in Grytviken – It’s estimated that more than 30,000 whales were processed here.
Former Grytviken whaling ship, complete with harpoon

Whale bones remind of Grytviken's past

At Grytviken, a whale could be stripped of its blubber and separated into bones and meat in just 20 minutes, before the three components were taken to their respective ‘cookeries’ for oil extraction. Walking around these rusting buildings in the hot sun, it’s hard to imagine that just 50 or so years ago, the ground would have been awash with blood and slippery with blubber, the air thick with the stench of whale flesh and the intoxicating smoke that would bellow from the blubber cookery.

The blubber cookery

Grytviken also diversified into seal slaughter, and today, the station’s ruins are inhabited by agitated fur seals and idle elephant seals which lollop amongst the redundant cookeries that once boiled-up their ancestors.
Elephant seals now enjoy happier days at Gryviken

Despite their long working hours and cramped, communal living conditions, there is evidence here that the whalers at Grytviken also enjoyed some leisure time; there was once a library, a cinema and a football grounds, as well as a ski-jump and a church, which was used more for meetings and events than prayer.

Grytviken church

A fascinating museum lies in the centre of the bay, in what was once the station manager’s house. The South Georgia Museum tells the story of Grytviken’s life as a station, displaying tools and charts once used by the whalers, as well as a reconstruction of their living quarters.  The museum also houses a stunning stuffed albatross, with a 7 metre wing-span and a penguin coat and fur seal hide for visitors to stroke and feel.

Shackleton's grave at Grytviken

At the far ends of the bay are reminders of the Antarctic’s most respected explorer; Shackleton’s grave and imposing granite headstone lie in the cemetery, next to Frank Wilde’s ashes, which were only recently brought here. To the other end of the bay lie memorial crosses, to commemorate the revered leader, and in the centre of the bay, next to the museum, a reconstruction of The James Caird – the reinforced life-boat that carried Shackleton and his men from Elephant Island to South Georgia – can be found.

Shackleton's grave at Grytviken  
Frank Wild's grave - just recently established in 2011

This blog-post forms part of a series of adventures experienced on-board the M/S Expedition in January 2012, whilst on an Antarctic Cruise - The Spirit of Shackleton - courtesy of Gadventures

No comments:

Post a Comment