After leaving Stromness Harbour the ship cruised south, heading for Cumberland Bay and our next shore landing at Grytviken. As the ship entered Cumberland Bay we had our first sighting of a huge tabular iceberg about 1km off the ships port side. We experienced sea ice and large swells.
As a consequence, the Captain made the decision to anchor closer to shore in Cumberland Bay rather than navigate the entrance to the small cove in which Grytviken lies. But once the ship was securely anchored, the tender boats were lowered we quickly boarded and headed for shore.
We landed close to Grytviken’s abandoned whaling station and whaler’s cemetery. The path led us through groups of resting King Penguins, Gentoo Penguins, Southern Elephant Seals and Antarctic Fur Seals. Whether in the air or on the ground we were accompanied by Albatross, Giant Petrels, Skuas and Sheathbills.
We arrived at the abandoned whaling station with its rusting buildings, whale oil storage tanks and the rusting hulk of the harpoon whale catching ship the Petrel.
Grytviken is the most important historical site on South Georgia and traditionally the administrative center for all activities on the island. Close by at King Edward Point is the British Antarctic Survey base.
Highlights of the area include a visit to the museum which houses artifacts of the bygone whaling era. It showcases the important history of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
Another must see is a visit to the Norwegian church. You’ll discover the part it played and still plays as a place of worship for seafarers throughout the history of this region.
The church has hosted marriages, baptisms, funerals and even concerts. Over the years the church has also been used as a library, cinema and even a store.
Before his burial in the Grytviken cemetery, the church housed explorer Earnest Shackleton’s body. The explorer died of a heart attack in 1922 onboard the ship Quest and was laid to rest here in Grytviken. His final resting place, memorial gravestone and plaque can be seen at the cemetery.
Our visit to Grytviken ends with us walking back to the waiting tender boats along the path surrounded on both sides by the friendly King and Gentoo penguins and seals. I was particularly delighted when two Gentoo penguins waddled towards me as if to say goodbye.
Before departing we looked back towards Grytviken to be rewarded by a magnificent view of the 2,934m Mt Paget which had broken through the cloud as if to say good bye, see you again.