Godthul and Grytviken, South Georgia

Oct 31, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

Today we experienced a healthy sample of the diverse weather South Georgia has to offer. In early spring, one can typically expect some cold temperatures and residual snow from the winter past. This spring, however, there’s been more snow at lower elevations than any of our staff could recall from previous voyages. Our morning outing in Godthul Bay allowed us to embrace firsthand the conditions in which the abundant wildlife thrives. With winds gusting to 20 knots, intermittent sheets of rain fell from the low cloud cover. We set off on hikes, traversing up the steep, tussock-covered slopes to the still-snow-laden plateau where gentoo penguins courted and built nests. Our Zodiacs plied the waters, so we could take in the sights of the shoreline: elephant seals and Antarctic fur seals jostling for space on the beaches, albatross soaring overhead, and rushing waterfalls cascading to the ocean.


As morning passed, we set sail for Cumberland Bay and Grytviken. By the time we entered the bay, the clouds had lifted, revealing for the first time the peaks and high glaciers of the island. We had blue skies, light winds, and warming temperatures for our afternoon at the historic whaling station of Grytviken. In operation from 1904 until the mid-1960s, this remote location saw the harvest and processing of hundreds of thousands of whales, leaving the waters around South Georgia nearly devoid of these magnificent creatures. Sir Ernest Shackleton’s mortal remains are interred here in the whaler’s graveyard; a toast to “The Boss,” during which a few words are shared and a whiskey dram raised, is a traditional part of a visit to Grytviken. Participants sprinkle a drop of whiskey or two on the grave of this legendary figure.


The station at Grytviken now serves as a reminder of a time when whales and men were at odds. Curated by the South Georgia Heritage Trust, the museum and restored station make for an enriching experience. We welcomed the staff of both the SGHT and the British Antarctica Survey (BAS) on board to share their experiences and work with us as well as to enjoy an evening meal.  

  • Send

About the Author

Doug Gualtieri


Doug Gualtieri has worked as a Naturalist interpretive guide for over 20 years, beginning his career in Denali National Park and Preserve at a remote wilderness lodge leading hikes and giving lectures on the ecology and wildlife of that region. Later he began leading Lindblad Expeditions land extensions to Denali in 2002 and has worked with Lindblad in some form or another ever since. With a background in Biology and a lifelong passion for the natural world Doug moved to Talkeetna, Alaska in 1999 from his home state of Michigan, and never looked back.

Get our newsletter

Join us for updates, insider reports & special offers.

Privacy Policy