Visit to Grytviken Whaling Station and Museum
Grytviken to Maiviken hike
Cumberland Bay West, a good anchorage overnight and the setting for Grytviken Station.
A place which tells stories of first whaling operations in the island, stories of legendary Antarctic enterprises and adventurers of the Golden age of Antarctic Exploration.
After the sealing times, the narrative referring Grytviken arise from Captain Larsen in the year 1904.
Well known already for his Arctic expeditions as well as for his Antarctic experiences, he set here a whaling station, starting this lucrative business for the Southern Ocean. He picked up his chance on that matter after being rescued during the Antarctic Swedish Antarctic Expedition (1901-03) to the Weddell Sea, ledby Otto Nordenksjold.
The company was established with Argentinean monetary support, 60 men and the whale catcher “Fortuna”.
A first expedition unsuccessful in conquering the South Pole, was followed by his struggles for survival on the famous Trans-antarctic Expedition in 1914, then he found his death during yet a third expedition to the South. Sir Ernest Shackleton passed away on January 5th 1922, at South Georgia. His body was then sent to England but his widow requested to send him back for burial to where he be-longed: in the deep south. He was buried near Grytviken on the 5th March 1922. Wild’s ashes travelled from South Africa in 2013, honoured with a plaque they were buried side by side to the “Boss”. The cemetery houses 63 other graves of whalers and sailors.
Men go out into the void spaces of the world for various reasons. Some are actuated simply by a love of adventure, some have the keen thirst for scientific knowledge, and others again are drawn away from from the trodden paths by the “lure of little voices”, the mysterious fascination of the unknown.
- Ernest Shackleton
Not many like him followed their dreams, the pull and thrill for exploration and deeds in the remotest uncharted places on earth. Even less people had successfully led men in desperate situations for survival and salvation. None as charismatic and acclaimed as Shackleton.
Framed by high mountains, at the head of the bay lay such honoured graveyard, the whaler’s old living quarters, oil tanks, boilers, flensing area, machinery, chains, anchors, harpoon tips. Amongst them, several beached whaling ships as silent decaying witness of the whale hunt on those waters nowadays declared Whale Sanctuary.
The shiny white painted church built in 1913, the Post Office and the Museum stand against the rusty surroundings. Exploration, whaling and Falkland’s War share this last building. A large collection of stamps, books and maps are sold in the Post Office.
From the Graveyard to the Museum and well assorted shop, passing through the whaling station remains, we had a morning to soak into this part of the island’s history.
An afternoon hike followed this fantastic cultural and historically loaded morning. The wind gusting over Cumberland Bay contrasts to the warm temperatures and the sun shinning amongst the high clouds up in the hills. Setting foot once more at Grytviken, a clear path lead the way towards the neighbour bay of Maiviken. A picturesque cove with three small beaches at the foot of the impressive bluffs surrounding it. Climbing 205 metres above the sea level, the first viewpoint from the so called Dead Man’s Cairn reveals the scenery over both of the neighbour bays. A little further, the turning point of the walk, a hill crowned with tussock grass overlooking a large lake where a hut built in 1974 stands. It is still use as home for King Edward Point scientists on field trips. Nowadays Maiviken is used often by scientist for research purposes, mostly surveying Fur seal population and Gentoo penguins nesting at Tortula Cove.
Same way back ended with embarking the ship for a good dinner and a night at anchor, with the Europa holding her ground on the gusty winds.