Friday 24 December 2010

Christmas at Grytviken

This morning we arrived to the scenic and history-laden harbour of Grytviken. The winds in South Georgia are so strong, that even within the safe waters of this bay, sheltered by tall mountains on three sides, we could not bring the Fram alongside the pier. Not that this minor obstacle would stop us: we launched our PolarCirkel boats and were exploring the site in no time!

The beaches were blanketed with seals - both furry fur seals and blubbery elephant seals. They were all enjoying the delightfully sunny day; something we did, too! It was nice to see the wobbly movements of the obese elephant seals; and also the gracile and funny run- and swimarounds of the juvenile fur seals.
Apart from wildlife,  Grytviken is also an interesting historic site: one of the biggest whaling stations on the island operated here, and one still can get a very good idea of how life was during the whaling days, by exploring the remains of the huge factory, as well as the many interesting artifacts exhibited in the museum. Of course, a further very interesting historic highlight of Grytviken is a visit to Sir Ernest Shackleton's tomb - unmistakable for two reasons: one, it's the most remarkable in the small graveyard, and it's the only one among them facing SOUTH! Having died in Grytviken, Shackleton's funeral service was held in the beautiful whalers's wooden church, which -in IKEA-fashion- was built in Norway and assembled on site in 1913. And today we had a fabulous, and very special way to see the church...
...  As today it's Christmas Eve, so we held a little, moving ceremony in this church. A short Nativity service was conducted in Norwegian by our Captain Rune Andreassen, followed by English and German versions; all accompanied by the beautiful music played by Catherine and Manuela, our gifted musicians on board. We dare say it was a wonderful experience for all involved - it certainly was among the highlights of this trip for us!

And to cap an already great day, we had wonderful weather as we sailed all along South Georgia's northern coast - even with no particularly trained eye for geology, it was easy to see that this awesome island is nothing but a stretch of the Andes gone astray - without losing any of their splendor!