Fabled Grytviken

I have been hearing about Grytviken for years, ever since I became interested in the south. And today we are here. I am typing this in Europa’s library at anchor in the bay as the ship prepares for a *party*! Flags are hoisted, coloured lights wrapped around the mast, barbecues set out on deck. New faces after a month of each other. Yay!

Here we again meet Carl Anton Larsen, captain of the Antarctic in the Nordenskjold expedition. On that trip he noted the shelter of this bay and the flat beach. Afterwards he went looking for finance for the first land-based whaling station in the southern hemisphere. Finally the money came from Buenos Aires investors. (This happenstance is still used to support Argentine claims in this area, though Larsen himself renounced his Norwegian citizenship to become British when he took up residence here.)

He went to the next cove along first, arriving on 1 May 1902, so he called it Maiviken. There is a wonderful walk from there to Grytviken which we did this morning. Today it was really hot and bright sunshine, so many of us ended up carrying layers of clothing rather than wearing them.

Here in Grytviken he set up whaling on a massive scale. Over the 60 years of operation tens of thousands of whales were butchered on this site. Today many rusting silos, boilers, sheds, flensing areas and other industrial detritus still stand in a brown-ghost sepia picture of brutal hard labour.

Grytviken is also where we finally say goodbye to Shackleton. He died here, of a heart attack, on his 1922 expedition to Antarctica and there is a fine monument to him erected by his men in the small cemetery. Next to him are the ashes of his life-long right hand man, Frank Wild, who was reinterred here just a few years ago.

There is much to say about Grytviken – but I’m off to the party.

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