Grytviken, South Georgia
After your days in the Antarctic realm, the sparse green vegetation of South Georgia Island may seem comparatively lush. The island is a part of South Georgia Island and the South Sandwich Islands, a British overseas territory. The tiny settlement of Grytviken languishes at the base of a looming central massif, on a flat plain with plentiful fresh water at the head of a sheltered cove. The town was named “Pot Harbor” by a Norwegian explorer who discovered English try-pots on the shore. One of those, probably dating from Captain James Cook’s visit in 1775, is displayed in the small town museum. The most visible portions of the town are the ghostly ruins of the whaling station established here in 1904. Until the 1960s, this was a veritable factory for converting the bountiful local population of whales and elephant seals into oil. Aside from the station relics, the town boasts a small white church built in 1913, a museum stuffed with relics of the town’s heyday, and a cemetery that is the last resting place of the renowned polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. In 1915, Shackleton’s polar expedition ship Endurance was entrapped in ice in the Antarctic and destroyed. The men managed to reach barren Elephant Island, from where Shackleton and five others made an epic 800-mile journey to South Georgia Island in a small, open boat. After arriving, they further completed a perilous crossing of the island’s central mountain range to reach Grytviken and effect a rescue of their companions.
The sub-antarctic climate and nutrient-rich seas provide South Georgia with a population of seabirds and mammals unmatched anywhere else. On the island’s Salisbury Plain, a colony of nearly a quarter million King Penguins makes an unforgettable vision of unspoiled nature. Elephant seals breed here and bask in the town and dominate the beaches. Albatrosses, petrels, shags, skuas and other species of penguins and seabirds are densely populated as well. Whales have returned to the surrounding waters in force. Exact landing sites will be determined by sea and ice conditions and local wildlife populations during your visit. But you will be privileged to experience one of the least-visited places on earth, and a veritable Lost Eden filled with the untouched abundance of nature.