Grytviken Travel Guide: From Whaling Station to Intriguing Destination
Although Grytviken sounds Scandinavian, it’s actually British and part of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, a British Overseas Territory. The settlement of Grytviken is located on the remote island of South Georgia, next to an idyllic harbor. Here are seven facts about this distinctive settlement.
- The name is Swedish.
The name Grytviken, Swedish for “the Pot Bay,” was coined by the Swedish explorer Johan Gunnar Andersson, who found old “try pots” used by the English to render seal oil. One of these try pots is preserved in the South Georgia Museum.
- Grytviken was founded by a Norwegian sea captain.
Carl Anton Larsen set up a whaling station in 1904, with the help of sixty fellow Norwegians. The whalers extracted oil from the blubber, meat, and viscera, while the bones and meat were used for fodder and fertilizer. They also hunted elephant seals. Larsen’s company was called the Compañía Argentina de Pesca (Argentine Fishing Company).
- The most famous landmark is the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Sir Ernest Shackleton sailed from London on a ship called the Quest, but it broke down repeatedly, forcing him to disembark in South Georgia on January 4, 1922. Shackleton died of a heart attack soon after, and his grave lies in a small cemetery in Grytvitken.
- Grytviken resembles a ghost town.
Although the settlement used to be home to roughly 500 men and their families, it’s practically abandoned now. All that remains is a cinema, church, museum, and cemetery. The serene, untouched atmosphere is perfect for those looking to stay away from crowds.
- Grytviken has a tundra climate.
In a tundra, vegetation consists of grass, moss, shrubs, lichens, sedges, and a few scattered trees. The average annual maximum temperature in Grytviken is 41°F, and the average minimum is 30.2°F. Annual precipitation is about 40 inches, so remember to pack a raincoat.
- Grytviken is a great place for hiking.
Among other local activities, hiking is a prime attraction for visitors to Grytviken. The traverse of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is harsh but rewarding — you can retrace the steps of Sir Ernest Shackleton himself across glaciers and black sandy beaches. If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot some penguins and elephant seals along the way.
- The South Georgia Museum is a popular tourist destination.
The South Georgia Museum, opened in 1991, was previously a villa occupied by the manager of the Grytviken whaling base until its closure in 1965. Originally focused exclusively on whaling, the museum expanded to include exhibits on the sealing industry, the Falklands War, and other subjects. The museum also hosts an artist-in-residence program, allowing artists to hone their craft in peace.
With its picturesque scenery and rich history, Grytviken is a must-visit for anyone seeking adventure and fascinating stories.