Grytviken, Fortuna Bay
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Grytviken, Fortuna Bay

Ernest Shackleton's grave

Grytviken only exists because of the whaling industry. It was opened as a whaling station in 1904 because Fortuna Bay was considered to be the best natural harbor in South Georgia. The site operated for almost 60 years and over 53,000 whale carcasses were landed and processed here.

Although founded by a Norwegian, the name “Grytviken” is actually Swedish! It means “Pot Bay” and was named by the Swedish survey expedition of 1902 because they found several old British try pots here - large vessels used to render down seal blubber.

The whaling station was abandoned in 1966 as uneconomical after stocks of whales in the region had dropped to critical levels due to over-hunting, and there are no permanent residents. However, a few officials do live here during the tourist season to manage the South Georgia Museum which is located here.

There is more famous Antarctic human history to discover at Grytviken. Just outside the settlement lies the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famous Antarctic explorer, who died here from a sudden heart attack in 1922. There is also a marker next to his grave marking the spot where the ashes of his key crew member and fellow explorer Frank Wild were interred.

As well as the museum, Grytviken also has a church - remarkably still used for occasional services.

While most people come here for human history, natural history doesn’t disappoint. Fortuna Bay is known for its large king penguin colonies and is a popular haul out for many elephant seals, as well as innumerable seabirds.

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Interesting facts about Grytviken, Fortuna Bay

In 2013, a long-missing stone was returned to Shackleton's gravesite by the British Royal Navy. This rock had been taken from the grave over 75 years earlier by a British Sailor. He said that it was one of the biggest regrets of his life, and it was his dying wish that the wrong he did should be righted and the stone returned to its proper place. His wish was honored by his present-day military colleagues.

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