Oil was extracted from the whale blubber in two rows of 12 tall pressure cookers. The strips of blubber from the flensing plant were cut into small pieces by a rotating cutter. Each cooker held about 24 tons of blubber that was cooked for about 5 hours. The oil was then pumped to the Separator Plant for purification.
The Workshops were used to maintain and repair the whale-catchers. Maintenance took place over the winter months so that the boats were ready for the time when the crews arrived for the whaling season. Originally the boats were pulled ashore by a huge winch. The floating dock that was built in 1928 unfortunately sunk. Steel plates for the hull were formed in the Platers Shop.
The whale-catcher Petrel was built in Oslo in 1928. The Petrel was one of the first whale-catcher with a catwalk so that the gunner could run from the bridge to the harpoon gun. The Petrel was converted to a sealer in 1956 and the catwalk was removed. Each summer the Petrel would visit the harbours of South Georgia and bring in seal blubber.
At times Grytviken was a very busy place, whalers, scientist, government officials and explorers all ventured into the far south of the Atlantic in pursuit of adventure, wealth or some even to flee from their homes. The graveyard shows many who have perished on the island either naturally or many due to accidents. Many nationalities of adventurous men and women found their last rest here.
Sir Shackletons Grave
The famous explorer of Antarctica whose first voyage on the Endurance to the Antarctic mainland almost ended in disaster; but due to his leadership and persistence all men were rescued, died during his second voyage to the Antarctic mainland in 1922. Upon the wish of his wive he was laid to rest here in Grytviken.
Wildlife – Elephant Seals
In the middle of all the activity, lazing around in the warmth of the Antarctic summer sun were these massive Elephant Seals. Only young males and females could be seen along the beach, resting in all sort of impossible positions, at times making it difficult to pass, if one would not want to get too close and attacked by tons of blubber.
The Harpon and Tijuca Jetties were named after two transport ships. Harpon was a steamer that sailed regularly between South Georgia and Europe 1923 – 1957 and Tijuca was an iron three masted sailing ship which carried whale oil between Grytviken and Buenos Aires from 1907 to 1942.
Still today one can find whale bones scattered along the beach, memories of a time before 1964 when whales in the thousands were killed and processed here. These bones are right next to the meat processing plant.
One of the items displayed outside the museum was this whale claw. It was first used in the 1932/1933 season and was able to pull whales of 100 tons. The use was to drag whales, tail first, up the stern ramps of whaling ships. The whale claw weighs 1.5 tons.
Museum Outside Display
Outside the museum one can find various items that were used during the whaling times. Some items were removed from the whaling vessels and give a good indication of what techniques were used to catch the whales.
Museum – Sir Shackleton
Visitors to the museum can view a display of the expeditions of Sir Shackleton including the amazing voyage onboard the Endurance, where Shackleton and his men got stuck in the ice of Antarctica and with the charisma and endurance of Shackleton all men were rescued.
A must visit when in Grytviken is the Museum that is situated towards the right from the landing pier. A good collection of artifacts allows a visitor to obtain the feeling what happened on South Georgia before the islands were declared a protected area. Also inside is a gift shop where one can buy postcards, stamps, books and other souvenirs.
This Norwegian Lutheran Church was pre-built in Norway and erected by the whalers in 1913. This typical Norwegian church is one of the most southern churches on earth and was built by C.A. Larsen. It was consecrated on Christmas Day in 1913. Until 1931 there was often a Lutheran priest on residence. Several marriages and baptism were held in this church during the course of time. In 1922 Sir Shackleton’s body lay in this church before being buried in the cemetery.
At various times the church was used as cinema, library and store. Between 1996 and 1998 the church was renovated to prevent it from collapse.