Antarctica – January 30, 2018…Grytviken, South Georgia…An abandoned whaling town…Sailing around the storm…

This group of Elephant Seals found comfort in sleeping together in a ditch.

The world…it baffles, it entices, it enlightens, and it surprises in one way or another almost every day. It spares nothing in attempting to capture our attention while we, in our amateurish or professional manner, attempt to capture it in photos in hopes of retaining memories to last a lifetime. 

Some of the King Penguins were molting while others were not.

Antarctica keeps “giving and giving.” this trip to Antarctica has been at the top of our list for photo ops (along with our upcoming adventures in Africa). And, in our less-than-professional photo-taking manner, we thrive on these opportunities with such enthusiasm we can hardly contain ourselves. 

We walked along this beach in the rain to the small settlement ahead.

Taking photos is important to us to share them with all of our worldwide readers and maintain them for our reference, our family, and generations yet to come.

Tom, with an iceberg in the background.
The younger seals seem eager to pose for a photo, but the older males chase after us, prepared to attack if necessary.  We had to scare a few off by clapping our hands and yelling.

Above all, standing on the very ground where so much is happening takes our breath away as we live in the magic of the moment, anticipating nothing more than what is before our eyes. With heart-pounding enthusiasm, we embrace every moment, later reviewing our photos, hoping to find those fantastic captures that genuinely tell the story of our current experiences.

A young seal was sleeping atop a plant with a grouping of Elephant Seals in the background.

Sure, an expedition cruise is not expected to be perfect. We’ve had to forgo three landings due to bad weather, which we’d looked forward to on the itinerary. Last night, we had to sail away with bad weather on the horizon, missing two landings scheduled for today. 

A lone Fur Seal was posing for a photo.

Instead, the captain decided we’d sail directly to the Antarctic Peninsula, where we’ll spend the next several days, finally amid the massive icy environment we’ve so longed to see.  As a result, we’re at sea today.

She was so relaxed, a bit of drool dripped from her mouth. A bath would be nice.

Yesterday morning, we embarked on the Zodiac boats to Grytviken, South Georgia, an old whaling village since gone to ruin. As we wandered through the historic town, we couldn’t help but feel sorrowful for the millions of whales slaughtered for financial gain. 

This is the first of a few icebergs we spotted in Grytviken and the first so far on the cruise.  Guaranteed, more will follow.

This Elephant Seal was sleeping in the ditch without his friends.

Evidence of this travesty is readily evidenced in this small settlement with the remnants of the storage tanks and processing machines and equipment. 

Among the ruins were multiple shipwrecks photos of which we’ve included here today. A small group of 10 to 20 people occupies the location during the summer months (less in the winter months) to facilitate ship passengers stopping to inspect the settlement. 

We were served a shot glass of Irish whiskey with the suggestion to take a sip and pour the remainder over Shackleton’s grave, a local tradition.

There’s a shop, a church, a post office, and a few museums, all of which we visited during our few hours at the location. It was exciting and quite unusual, especially the many Fur Seals and Elephant Seals that live amongst the ruins of a long-abandoned business.

No sip of Irish whiskey for me, but I poured mine over Shackleton’s gravesite.
Here is information about Grytviken, South Georgia Island, from this site:
Grytviken is a settlement on the island of South Georgia, part of a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic. The settlement’s name is Swedish in origin, meaning “the Pot Bay.” The name was coined in 1902 by the Swedish Antarctic Expedition and documented by the Swedish surveyor Johan Gunnar Andersson, after the expedition found old English try pots used to render seal oil at the site.
It is the harbor’s best harbor, consisting of a bay (King Edward Cove) within a bay (Cumberland East Bay). The site is relatively sheltered, provides a substantial area of flat land suitable for building, and has an excellent freshwater supply.
Her companion is fanning her with widespread fins and tail.

The settlement at Grytviken was established on 16 November 1904 by the Norwegian sea captain Carl Anton Larsen as a whaling station for his Compañía Argentina de Pesca (Argentine Fishing Company).  

It was phenomenally successful, with 195 whales taken in the first season alone. The whalers used every part of the animals – the blubber, meat, bones, and viscera were rendered to extract the oil, and the bones and meat were turned into fertilizer and fodder. Elephant seals were also hunted for their blubber.

The following year the Argentine Government established a meteorological station. Around 300 men worked at the station during its heyday, operating during the southern summer from October to March. A few remained over the winter to maintain the boats and factory. A transport ship would bring essential supplies to the station every few months and take away the oil and other produce.

An adorable seal climbed a wall to see what the commotion was all about.
Carl Anton Larsen, the founder of Grytviken, was a naturalized Briton born in Sandefjord, Norway. His family in Grytviken included his wife, three daughters, and two sons. In his application for British citizenship, filed with the magistrate of South Georgia and granted in 1910, Captain Larsen wrote: “I have given up my Norwegian citizen’s rights and have resided here since I started whaling in this colony on the 16 November 1904 and have no reason to be of any other citizenship than British, as I have had and intend to have my residence here still for a long time.”
The first iceberg we’d seen since leaving Ushuaia a week ago today.  More will surely follow as we head to the Antarctica Peninsula.
As the manager of Compañía Argentina de Pesca, Larsen organized the construction of Grytviken, a remarkable undertaking accomplished by a team of sixty Norwegians between their arrival on 16 November and commencement of production at the newly built whale-oil factory on 24 December 1904. Larsen chose the whaling station’s site during his 1902 visit while in command of the ship Antarctic of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition (1901–03) led by Otto Nordenskjöld.
On that occasion, the name Grytviken (“The Pot Cove”) was given by the Swedish archaeologist and geologist Johan Gunnar Andersson. They surveyed part of Thatcher Peninsula and found numerous artifacts and features from sealers’ habitation and industry, including a shallop (a type of small boat) and several try-pots used to boil seal oil. One of those try-pots, having the inscription ‘Johnson and Sons, Wapping Dock, London’, is preserved at the South Georgia Museum in Grytviken.
Me, with an iceberg in the background.
Managers and other senior officers of the whaling stations often had their families living together with them. Among them was Fridthjof Jacobsen, whose wife Klara Olette Jacobsen gave birth to two of their children in Grytviken; their daughter Solveig Gunbjørg Jacobsen was the first child ever born south of the Antarctic Convergence, on 8 October 1913. Several more children have been born in South Georgia: recently even aboard visiting private yachts.

The whale population in the seas around the island was substantially reduced over the following sixty years until the station closed in December 1966. By that time, the whale stocks were so low that their continued exploitation was unviable. Even now, the shore around Grytviken is littered with whale bones and the rusting remains of whale oil processing plants and abandoned whaling ships. 

A big male Fur Seal and perhaps his offspring who he was training to be growly at visitors.

Ernest Shackleton Grytviken is closely associated with the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition set out from London on 1 August 1914 to reach the Weddell Sea on 10 January 1915, where the pack ice closed in on their ship, Endurance. The ship was broken by the ice on 27 October 1915. The 28 crew members fled to Elephant Island off Antarctica, bringing three small boats 

Shackleton and five other men managed to reach the southern coast of South Georgia in the James Caird. They arrived at Cave Cove and camped at Peggotty Bluff, from where they trekked to Stromness on the northeast coast. From Grytviken, Shackleton organized a rescue operation to bring home the remaining men.

An iceberg with our ship in the background.

In 1922 he had died unexpectedly from a heart attack at the beginning of another Antarctic expedition. He again returned to Grytviken, but posthumously, his widow chose South Georgia as his final resting place. His grave is located south of Grytviken, alongside those of whalers who had died on the island.

On 27 November 2011, the ashes of Frank Wild, Shackleton’s ‘right-hand man, were interred on the right side of Shackleton’s gravesite. The inscription on the rough-hewn granite block set to mark the spot reads “Frank Wild 1873–1939, Shackleton’s right-hand man.” Wild’s relatives and Shackleton’s only granddaughter, the Hon Alexandra Shackleton, attended a Rev Dr. Richard Hines service, rector of the Falkland Islands.
A whaling boat shipwreck.
The writer Angie Butler discovered the ashes in the vault of Braamfontein Cemetery, Johannesburg, while researching her book The Quest For Frank Wild. She said, “His ashes will now be where they were always supposed to be. It just took them a long time getting there.”

Update on my knee: It’s certainly not 100% yet. I visited the doctor a second time for another round of a different antibiotic and more anti-inflammatory meds. It’s improving, albeit slowly. 

Another sad reminder is that life for wildlife is not easy.

I can’t wait for this to be healed so I can stop thinking about it and, good grief, have a glass of wine! But, I’ve only missed one outing (out of many more), which required a five km walk, and Tom went ahead without me taking amazing photos.

As for today, right now, I’m in the lounge on deck three while Tom is taking a much-needed nap. It’s nearly 3:00 pm. Since we’re at sea today, little is required other than to enjoy our new friends, which is relatively easy to do in this beautiful environment.

The small Lutheran church in Grytviken, South Georgia.

Update on the pending rough seas: The captain made a good decision when we forfeited two planned landings to instead sail directly to Elephant Island, which we should reach sometime tomorrow. The waters are rough, and walking around the ship requires some holding on one another, walls, and railings. 

But, in our usual way, neither of us are seasick, but we suspect that some passengers may be feeling it when I’m only one of about eight passengers in the usually packed deck three lounges.  Due to the weakening Wi-Fi signal, I’m unable to enlarge a number of our photos to the size we always post. 

Whaling oil processing equipment.

Have a great day! And again, no worries if we aren’t here over the next few days. Likely, we won’t have a signal the further south we sail.

     Photo from one year ago today, January 30, 2017:

Wood handled tools for the “barbie” we spotted at an outdoor flea market in Franklin, Tasmania.  For more photos, please click here.