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Maiviken to Grytviken walk

In the early morning we get free from our holding under two anchors at Husvik and motor our way towards the little cove Maiviken, tucked into the coastline of cliffs and scree slopes in Cumberland Bay.

We arrive there right after breakfast, and our fears of not finding sufficient shelter from the strong winds we were having and which are still forecasted, disappear. Despite its small size and the snowy conditions, the steep sided mountains all around protect our landing site. Maiviken has just three small beaches surrounding it, all set between Rocky and Mai Points with their upper parts covered by tussock grass. The first one to the North is called Tortula Cove, the next one is Burnet and the third one and our landing site is called Poa Cove. Our guides disembark first and pick up nine people from the rocky beach, who all live and work in Grytviken during the summer season. Eric and Jordi invited them on board a couple of days ago. They just came walking from Grytviken earlier, doing the same walk we plan to do but in the opposite direction. Being busy for the whole season, having the chance to take a break, meet other people and sail our ship is a great break on their duties! Soon all started to pull ropes and climb the rig very enthusiastically, playing the role of crewmembers for a couple of hours until reaching their station. 

Maiviken itself is used often by scientist from King Edward Point (the British Antarctic Survey station at Grytviken) for research purposes, mostly surveying the Fur seal population and the Gentoo penguins nesting at Tortula Cove. That is nowadays, but the area was well known already by early sealers. Next to the landing site sits a sealers cave, where they used to be left to hunt and skin as many Fur seals as possible, being picked up a while afterwards by their ships. In the present times a wooden wall with a door protects the entrance, a recent addition to the sparse comfort of the early sealer’s life. Once we all got the chance to check the cave, the hikers started their way towards Grytviken. A fabulous, couple of hours hike, even in the snowy conditions we had. In total, the well trodden path climbs up to 205m, passing by a small hut built in 1974, and kept in good conditions until nowadays. Then the track follows the shoreline of the Maivatn mountain lake and Bore Valley, leading to the so named Dead Man’s Cairn. From there it is all downhill until reaching the Grytviken facilities, first passing next to a small hydro-electrical construction. We arrived a bit before the Europa sails into the bay, having time to take a few great shots while she approaches close to the coast. Soon we all embark to have lunch. Right afterwards we have to go through clearance and mandatory paperwork with the British authorities before starting our afternoon landing.

While working on that, Sarah, who is in charge of the Museum and head of the South Georgia Heritage Trust gave us an interesting talk about habitat restoration and the rat eradication program they are conducting in South Georgia, that in fact has been surprisingly successful. After all this we were all ready to start operations to go ashore. We started next to the Station graveyard, where amongst many other graves of sailors and whalers, lays Ernest Shackleton’s grave and also the recently moved Frank Wild’s ashes. Finally “the Boss” and his First Officer are resting side by side in this cemetery in South Georgia. We did a small ceremony at the graveyard, including drinking and pouring whiskey on Shackleton’s grave (a tradition for the visitors of “the Boss”). Then we got a guided tour along the station that the Museum assistant was very kind to offer. The visit ends at the Museum, Post office and well-assorted Shop. Either joining the tour or walking on our own, it was pretty impressive to walk around the well preserved remains, including giant rusted anchor chains, high pressure steam cylinders, buildings, hauled out workboats, beached whaling boats, chimneys, generators and engines. Beyond the whaling base vestiges, the white whaler’s church stands against the landscape, together with the Museum and Post office. In the Museum there is a great display of all aspects of whaling, exploration, Falkland’s war and natural life of the island. The next door building hosts a real size replica of the “James Caird”, the open boat used by Worsley, Shackleton and four of their men to sail all the way from Elephant Island to South Georgia, in search of rescue for the rest of the expedition. Once finished with Grytviken visit we are welcomed on board the Europa with a barbecue party on deck! Some workers from King Edward Point, the museum and the post office, are also picked up to join, having great time on board, a few drinks and good food. We plan to spend the night at anchor, leaving early in the morning to Cobblers Cove and Godthul, the next landings on our list. During our trip we have followed the steps of different polar explorers, now with Grytviken we round up the polar history of our trip. Still a couple more days left before we leave South Georgia to explore a bit more the wonders of this incredible island.

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