The small church of Grytviken town, a former whaling station set up on the island’s best harbor. Its name comes from the Swedish word for pot, after a Swedish surveyor found old English pots used to render seal oil when exploring the site in 1902. The whaling station was set up in 1904 and took 195 whales in its first season, with up to 300 men living in the settlement during the hunting season.
South Georgia – Been There

The journey to the bottom end of the world

Photo by Jochem Wijnands

South Georgia – Been There The journey to the bottom end of the world

South Georgia is a remote British possession deep in the southern Atlantic Ocean, whose “capital” of Grytviken is a former whaling station.

Chris Moss
Chris Moss Travel Writer

In Grytviken, I meet Sarah Lurcock who manages the island’s museum and is as close as South Georgia gets to a permanent inhabitant. With her husband, a government officer, she has spent eight months of the year on the island and the rest in the UK for nearly 20 years.

“Staying longer here is a privilege afforded to only a few,” she says. “Some visitors wonder at how people can stay for months or years in such a remote place, but they forget we have plenty of visitors, winter and summer through, plenty of interesting work to keep us busy and a huge natural playground to enjoy if there is a spare moment.

“Staying longer allows an intimacy with the rhythms of the island. In my diary I have noted the day we can expect to see the first skua return after winter, the first elephant seal born on the beach outside our house, the last day the sun hits King Edward Point as it sinks behind Mount Duse for the middle of winter – and the first time the weak edges of the rays of sun creep back to light just the tip of the Point.

“When you come to South Georgia, if you ‘get it’ then beware as you end up with the bug, the pressing need to keep finding a way back.” I believe her.

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A Christmas church service at Grytviken Whaling Station. Although there are no permanent inhabitants, South Georgia has a small rotating population of scientists and support staff from the British Antarctic Survey as well as a museum staff and British Government officers. The United Kingdom has claimed sovereignty over South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in 1908, a claim still disputed by Argentina. Photo by Kevin Schafer / Alamy

Kevin Schafer

Kevin Schafer

Agency
Alamy

A Christmas church service at Grytviken Whaling Station. Although there are no permanent inhabitants, South Georgia has a small rotating population of scientists and support staff from the British Antarctic Survey as well as a museum staff and British Government officers. The United Kingdom has claimed sovereignty over South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in 1908, a claim still disputed by Argentina.

A Christmas church service at Grytviken Whaling Station. Although there are no permanent inhabitants, South Georgia has a small rotating population of scientists and support staff from the British Antarctic Survey as well as a museum staff and British Government officers.

Other stories about South Georgia