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Sea Shanties, Rocks, and Seals

Europa holds her ground at Lighthouse Bay, right at the northwest entrance of Possession Bay.

Sea Shanties play in the Deckhouse. On deck, forceful winds and a full snow blizzard blow. Up in the Wheelhouse, the Captain is busy re-positioning and re-anchoring the ship after she pulls her anchor off the rocky bottom on the strongest morning gusts.

The wind roars, Europa tries to hold her ground, in the Deckhouse Amelie, a Canadian crew member, picks the guitar and sings.

She is from Quebec historically considered a good ship-building harbor with an abundance of good timber, and from a country rich in maritime stories, evoking places like Nantucket or Newfoundland with its big shanty culture and tradition.

Shanties, “work and sing” songs. Tunes with an alternating solo and chorus of the kind originally sung by sailors while performing physical labor together.

As an example of their workings, what Dereck Lundy wrote in his classical book “The Way of a Ship”

… For a few seconds, they pulled at cross-purposes. Then the shanty began, the singer momentarily stopping the pull as the men adjusted themselves to the rhythm, and they began hauling away in unison. “Way, hay an’ up she rises! Patent blocks o’different sizes…”

The shantyman-Paddy, the southern Irishman- sounded out strong and clear in a smooth, practised baritone. It was one of the “walkaway” or “runaway” shanties, used for heavy deck work like hauling up topsail yards or this present business with the braces.

What shall

we do with a

drunken sailor? (x3)

ear-lye in the morning!

The men’s voices joined in the chorus, loud and breathless as they stomped to the song’s quick time -it was one of the few shanties sung that way- to the tune of an old Irish dance:

Put him in

the long-boat

till he gets sober…


Trice him up

in a runnin’


The chorus again.


Until the lower yards were hauled into position, and then the topsail and topgallant yards, all the braces tramped down the deck to the ring of the shanty, the “Way, hay” o the chorus a loud, savage yell.

Derek Lundy.

While the wind growls through the ship’s rigging, with those songs we are reminded of the days past and days to come on our trip hauling lines, now and then having good fun in the deckhouse, evenings sharing different stories between the many on board or the bloody past of South Georgia related with the sealing and whaling, from which many remains can be found here and there in the most sheltered bays of the island.

In front of a good audience, accompanied by their fellow traveler Nick with another guitar, she performs and plays shanties of different nature:

Capstan or pump ones for heavy-lifting group songs:

Now we are ready to sail for the Horn

Way hey, roll and go

Our boots and our clothes boys are all in

their pawn

To be rollicking Randy Dandy Oh


Heave her pawl oh heave away

Way hey, too, and go

The anchor’s onboard and the cables are stored

To be rollicking Randy Dandy Oh

Randy Dandy Oh

Hauling songs for lighter pulling ropes on deck:

When I was a little boy

Or so my mother told me

Way, Haul away, we’ll haul away Joe

Way, Haul away, we’ll haul away Joe


We loaded for, we’re homeward bound

Took it free and easy Setting sail to newfound lands

The wind was high and breezy

We overcome and rose above The storm that we were facing Finally arriving home

Together, warm and safely

Haul away Joe

Forecastle melodies are more related to folk songs, and stories behind crew adventures shared and exchanged during their meetings together in the ship’s Forecastle; 

When on the road to sweet Athy

Hurroo, Hurroo

When on the road to sweet Athy

A stick in the hand, a drop in the eye

A doleful damsel I heard cry

Johnny I hardly knew Ya


With your guns and drums and drums and guns, Hurroo, Hurroo (x3)

The enemy nearly slew ya

O darling dear you look so queer

Johnny I hardly knew Ya

Johnny I hardly knew Ya


Whaling songs from the old times when men set off to the sea for the hunt for long periods of time, leaving behind their lives ashore.


The Diamond is a ship me lads

For the Davis Strait she’s bound

The quay it is all garnished

With bonnie lasses round

Captain Thompson gives the order

To sail the ocean wide

Where the sun it never sets me lads

Nor darkness dims the sky


And it’s cheer up, me lads

Let your hearts never fall

For the bonnie ship the diamond

Goes a-fishing for the whale 

Bonnie Ship the Diamond


A day for staying on board, braving the harsh conditions in South Georgia. A journey for music, talks, and meetings in our cozy ship while the storm hits the island. Never-ending hours for Captain and Mate to stand by keeping track of the ship’s doings, jerks over her chain and swinging movements accommodating to the showers passing by, braving the strong winds and gusts over the 40kn at Lighthouse Bay (north of Prins Olav Harbour, right at the northwest entrance of Possession Bay). The only relative “shelter” we can find in the area.

Dark clouds travel fast sweeping over the waters of the neighbor Possession Bay, while in this little cove surrounded by cliffs and high mountains in the background, Europa is facing just part of the predominant wild winds and the stronger blasts.

Also today Elephant seals and the South Georgia rocks pay us a visit by the Deckhouse in Jordi’s and Clara’s presentations. 

• How the scientists ride the elephants, pierce their fins with tags, pull up fur samples, and glue tracking devices on their heads. 

• The absorbing and interesting geological history of South Georgia and the whole stream of islands of the Scotia Arch.

Easing winds are forecasted for tomorrow, hopefully they know themselves and drop enough to allow for more activities in the amazing and unpredictable South Georgia.

Written by:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader

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