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Grytviken is the principal settlement
Hamlet (place)
A hamlet is usually a rural settlement which is too small to be considered a village, though sometimes the word is used for a different sort of community. Historically, when a hamlet became large enough to justify building a church, it was then classified as a village...

 in the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 territory of South Georgia
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is a British overseas territory and overseas territory of the European Union in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It is a remote and inhospitable collection of islands, consisting of South Georgia and a chain of smaller islands, known as the South Sandwich...

 in the South Atlantic. It was so named in 1902 by the Swedish surveyor Johan Gunnar Andersson
Johan Gunnar Andersson
Johan Gunnar Andersson , Swedish archaeologist, paleontologist and geologist, closely associated with the beginnings of Chinese archaeology in the 1920s...

 who found old English try pot
Try pot
A try pot is a large pot used to remove and render the oil from blubber obtained from cetaceans, pinnipeds and also to extract oil from penguins. Once a whale had been caught and killed, the process of removing the blubber from the whale began...

s used to render seal
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

 oil at the site. It is the best harbour on the island, consisting of a bay (King Edward Cove
King Edward Cove
King Edward Cove is a sheltered cove immediately southwest of Mount Duse, in the west side of Cumberland East Bay, South Georgia. This cove, frequented by early sealers at South Georgia, was charted by the Swedish Antarctic Expedition, 1901-04, under Nordenskjold. It was named in about 1906 for...

) within a bay (Cumberland East Bay
Cumberland East Bay
Cumberland East Bay is a bay forming the eastern arm of Cumberland Bay, South Georgia. It is entered between Sappho Point and Barff Point, where it is nearly 3 miles wide, and extends 8 miles in a southeast direction. This feature was surveyed by the Swedish Antarctic Expedition, 1901-04, who...

). The site is quite sheltered, provides a substantial area of flat land suitable for building on, and has a good supply of fresh water.

Carl Anton Larsen

The settlement at Grytviken was established on November 16, 1904, by the Norwegian sea captain Carl Anton Larsen
Carl Anton Larsen
Carl Anton Larsen was a Norwegian Antarctic Explorer, who made important contributions to the exploration of Antarctica, the most significant being the first discovery of fossils, for which he received the Back Grant from the Royal Geographical Society...

 as a whaling
Whaling is the hunting of whales mainly for meat and oil. Its earliest forms date to at least 3000 BC. Various coastal communities have long histories of sustenance whaling and harvesting beached whales...

 station for his Compañía Argentina de Pesca
Compañía Argentina de Pesca
Compañía Argentina de Pesca was initiated by the British-Norwegian whaler and Antarctic explorer Carl A. Larsen, and established on 29 February 1904 by three foreign residents of Buenos Aires: the Norwegian consul P. Christophersen, H.H. Schlieper , and E. Tornquist...

(Argentine Fishing Company). It was phenomenally successful, with 195 whale
Whale is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. The term whale sometimes refers to all cetaceans, but more often it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which belong to suborder Odontoceti . This suborder also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga...

s taken in the first season alone. The whalers used every part of the animals - the blubber
Blubber is a thick layer of vascularized adipose tissue found under the skin of all cetaceans, pinnipeds and sirenians.-Description:Lipid-rich, collagen fiber–laced blubber comprises the hypodermis and covers the whole body, except for parts of the appendages, strongly attached to the musculature...

, meat, bones and viscera were rendered to extract the oil
Whale oil
Whale oil is the oil obtained from the blubber of various species of whales, particularly the three species of right whale and the bowhead whale prior to the modern era, as well as several other species of baleen whale...

 and the bones and meat were turned into fertilizer and fodder. Elephant seal
Elephant seal
Elephant seals are large, oceangoing seals in the genus Mirounga. There are two species: the northern elephant seal and the southern elephant seal . Both were hunted to the brink of extinction by the end of the 19th century, but numbers have since recovered...

s were also hunted for their blubber. 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. Every few months a transport ship would bring essential supplies to the station and take away the oil and other produce. The following year the Argentine Government
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 established a meteorological station
Weather station
A weather station is a facility, either on land or sea, with instruments and equipment for observing atmospheric conditions to provide information for weather forecasts and to study the weather and climate. The measurements taken include temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, wind speed, wind...


Carl Anton Larsen, the founder of Grytviken, was a naturalized Briton born in Sandefjord
is a city and municipality in Vestfold county, Norway. The administrative centre of the municipality is the city of Sandefjord. The municipality of Sandefjord was established on 1 January 1838...

, Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

. In his application for British citizenship, filed with the British Magistrate
A magistrate is an officer of the state; in modern usage the term usually refers to a judge or prosecutor. This was not always the case; in ancient Rome, a magistratus was one of the highest government officers and possessed both judicial and executive powers. Today, in common law systems, a...

 of South Georgia and granted in 1910, Captain Larsen wrote: "I have given up my Norwegian citizens 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." His family in Grytviken included his wife, three daughters and two sons.

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 November 16, and commencement of production at the newly built whale-oil factory on December 24, 1904.

Larsen chose the whaling station's site during his 1902 visit while in command of the ship Antarctic of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition
Swedish Antarctic Expedition
The Swedish Antarctic Expedition was led by Otto Nordenskjöld and Carl Anton Larsen.-Background:Otto Nordenskjöld, a Swedish geologist and geographer, organized and lead a scientific expedition of the Antarctic Peninsula...

 (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
Johan Gunnar Andersson
Johan Gunnar Andersson , Swedish archaeologist, paleontologist and geologist, closely associated with the beginnings of Chinese archaeology in the 1920s...

 who surveyed part of Thatcher Peninsula
Thatcher Peninsula
Thatcher Peninsula is a mountainous cove in north-central South Georgia terminating to the north in Mai Point, rising between Cumberland West Bay to the west, and Cumberland East Bay and Moraine Fjord to the east; bounded to the southwest and south by Lyell Glacier and Hamberg Glacier...

 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
South Georgia Museum
The South Georgia Museum is situated in Grytviken, the administrative centre of the UK overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands....

 in Grytviken.

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 in Antarctica, on October 8, 1913. Several more children have been born on 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 which 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.


Grytviken is closely associated with the Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton
Ernest Shackleton
Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, CVO, OBE was a notable explorer from County Kildare, Ireland, who was one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration...

. Shackleton's most famous expedition set out from London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 on August 1, 1914, to reach the Weddell Sea
Weddell Sea
The Weddell Sea is part of the Southern Ocean and contains the Weddell Gyre. Its land boundaries are defined by the bay formed from the coasts of Coats Land and the Antarctic Peninsula. The easternmost point is Cape Norvegia at Princess Martha Coast, Queen Maud Land. To the east of Cape Norvegia is...

 on January 10, 1915, where the pack ice closed in on their ship, the Endurance
Endurance (1912 ship)
The Endurance was the three-masted barquentine in which Sir Ernest Shackleton sailed for the Antarctic on the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition...

. The ship was broken by the ice on October 27, 1915. The 28 crew members managed to flee to Elephant Island, off Antarctica, bringing three small boats with them. All of them survived after Shackleton and five other men managed to reach the southern coast of South Georgia in the James Caird
James Caird (boat)
The voyage of the James Caird was an open boat journey from Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands to South Georgia in the southern Atlantic Ocean, a distance of...

. They arrived at Cave Cove
Cave Cove
Cave Cove is a small cove on King Haakon Bay, South Georgia, best known for its connection to Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition expedition. It was where the James Caird landed on 10 May 1916 after its tumultuous voyage from Elephant Island, and this is commemorated by a small plaque...

, and camped at Peggotty Bluff
Peggotty Bluff
Peggotty Bluff or Peggotty Camp, is a bluff on the north side and near the head of King Haakon Bay, South Georgia.-History:In 1916, Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition party from Elephant Island established a camp, using the upturned James Caird near the head of King Haakon Bay...

, from where they trekked to Stromness on the northeast coast. From Grytviken, Shackleton organised a rescue operation to bring home the remaining men.

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

On 27 November 2011, it was reported that the ashes of Frank Wild
Frank Wild
Commander John Robert Francis Wild CBE, RNVR, FRGS , known as Frank Wild, was an explorer...

, Shackleton's 'right-hand man', were interred on the right-hand side of Shackleton's grave-site. 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 Shakleton's only granddaughter, the Hon Alexandra Shackleton, attended a service conducted by the Rev Dr Richard Hines, rector of the Falkland Islands. The writer Angie Butler discovered the ashes in the vault of Braamfontein
Braamfontein is a central suburb of Johannesburg, in South Africa. It is well located, straddling Jan Smuts Avenue and Empire Road. The Nelson Mandela bridge is a landmark that connects Braamfontein to the city...

 Cemetery, Johannesburg
Johannesburg also known as Jozi, Jo'burg or Egoli, is the largest city in South Africa, by population. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa...

 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".

Falklands War

During the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

, Grytviken was captured by Argentine
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 forces in early April 1982 following a brief battle with British Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

. The Royal Marines, SAS
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

 and SBS
Special Boat Service
The Special Boat Service is the special forces unit of the British Royal Navy. Together with the Special Air Service, Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group they form the United Kingdom Special Forces and come under joint control of the same Director Special...

 retook the settlement three weeks later without a shot being fired.

Supported by the corvette ARA Guerrico
ARA Guerrico (P-32)
ARA Guerrico is a Drummond class corvette of the Argentine Navy. She is the first vessel to be named after Rear Admiral Martin Guerrico who fought in the 19th century War of the Triple Alliance....

 on April 3, 1982, the ARA Bahía Paraíso landed a party of Argentine marines who attacked the platoon of 22 Royal Marines deployed at Grytviken. The two-hour battle resulted in the ARA Guerrico being damaged and an Argentine Puma
Aérospatiale Puma
The Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma is a four-bladed, twin-engined medium transport/utility helicopter. The Puma was originally manufactured by Sud Aviation of France.-Development:...

 helicopter shot down. The Argentine forces sustained 3 men killed and a similar number of wounded, with one wounded on the British side. The British commanding officer Lieutenant Keith Mills
Keith Mills (Royal Marines officer)
Lieutenant Keith Mills DSC is the British Royal Marines officer who commanded the defence of South Georgia against the 1982 Argentine invasion....

 was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for the defence of South Georgia. While the British Magistrate and other civilians and military present in Grytviken were removed from South Georgia, another 15 Britons remained beyond Argentine reach. The losses suffered at Grytviken prevented Argentina from occupying the rest of the island, with Bird Island base, and field camps at Schlieper Bay
Schlieper Bay
Schlieper Bay is a bay 1 mile wide, entered between Romerof Head and Weddell Point along the south coast of South Georgia. Schlieper Bay was named between 1905-12 after the director of the Compañía Argentina de Pesca....

, Lyell Glacier
Lyell Glacier, South Georgia
For the glacier located on Mount Lyell in California, see Lyell GlacierLyell Glacier is a glacier flowing in a north direction to Harpon Bay at the southeast head of Cumberland West Bay, South Georgia...

 and St. Andrews Bay
St Andrews Bay, South Georgia
Saint Andrews Bay is a bight 2 miles wide, indenting the north coast of South Georgia immediately south of Mount Skittle. Probably first sighted by the British expedition under Cook which explored the north coast of South Georgia in 1775. The name dates back to at least 1920 and is now well...

 remaining under British control.

On April 25, the Royal Navy damaged and captured the Argentine submarine ARA Santa Fe at South Georgia. The Argentine garrison in Grytviken surrendered without returning the fire. The following day the detachment in Leith Harbour
Leith Harbour
Leith Harbour , also known as Port Leith, was a whaling station up on the northeast coast of South Georgia, established and operated by Christian Salvesen Ltd, Edinburgh. The station was in operation from 1909 until 1965. It was the largest of seven whaling stations, situated near the mouth of...

 commanded by Captain Alfredo Astiz
Alfredo Astiz
Alfredo Ignacio Astiz was a Commander, intelligence office and maritime commando in the Argentine Navy during the dictatorial rule of Jorge Rafael Videla in the Proceso de Reorganización Nacional...

 also surrendered. Finally, the Argentine personnel were removed from the South Sandwich Islands by HMS Endurance on June 20. Due to evidence of an unauthorised visit, the closed station Corbeta Uruguay
Corbeta Uruguay
Corbeta Uruguay was an Argentine military outpost established in November 1976 on the island of Thule, Southern Thule, in the South Sandwich Islands. The base was established by order of the then-military junta governing Argentina as a way to back up its territorial claims on British territory in...

 was destroyed in January 1983.

Current situation

Along with the surrounding area, the station has been declared an Area of Special Tourist Interest (ASTI).

Grytviken is a popular stop for cruise ship
Cruise ship
A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way...

s visiting Antarctica, and tourists usually land to visit Shackleton's grave. The South Georgia Museum
South Georgia Museum
The South Georgia Museum is situated in Grytviken, the administrative centre of the UK overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands....

 is housed in the manager's house of the former whaling station, and is open during the summer tourist season.

The station's church
Norwegian Lutheran Church (Grytviken, South Georgia)
Norwegian Lutheran Church in Grytviken, South Georgia, was built in 1913. It is of the Church of Norway.The church was pre-built in Norway and erected in Grytviken by whalers led by Carl Anton Larsen. This typical Norwegian church, one of the most southern churches on earth, was consecrated on...

 is the only building which retains its original purpose, and is still used occasionally for services. There have been several marriages in Grytviken, the first being registered on February 24, 1932, between A. G. N. Jones and Vera Riches, and the most recent on February 19, 2006, between Peter W. Damisch and Lesley J. Friedsam.
On January 28, 2007, a service was conducted in remembrance of Anders Hansen (a Norwegian whaler buried at Grytviken cemetery in 1943) and to celebrate his great-great-grandson Axel Wattø Eide's baptism occurring in Oslo
Oslo is a municipality, as well as the capital and most populous city in Norway. As a municipality , it was established on 1 January 1838. Founded around 1048 by King Harald III of Norway, the city was largely destroyed by fire in 1624. The city was moved under the reign of Denmark–Norway's King...

, Norway, the same day.

See also

  • Carl Anton Larsen
    Carl Anton Larsen
    Carl Anton Larsen was a Norwegian Antarctic Explorer, who made important contributions to the exploration of Antarctica, the most significant being the first discovery of fossils, for which he received the Back Grant from the Royal Geographical Society...

  • History of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
    History of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
    The history of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is relatively recent. When European explorers found the islands, they were uninhabited, and their hostile climate, mountainous terrain, and remoteness made subsequent settlement difficult...

  • King Edward Point
    King Edward Point
    King Edward Point is a promontory and settlement with port facilities on the northeastern coast of the island of South Georgia. It is located at in Cumberland East Bay...

  • Solveig Gunbjørg Jacobsen
  • South Georgia Museum
    South Georgia Museum
    The South Georgia Museum is situated in Grytviken, the administrative centre of the UK overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands....

External links