Grytviken is the whaling station made famous by Shackleton's reunion with civilization on South Georgia after losing his ship, the Endurance, to Antarctic pack ice in 1915. Toast Shackleton at his gravesite in a small cemetery overlooking the bay. Although the grave of Ernest Shackleton can be found in the little graveyard here, Grytviken is not the whaling station where he finally found help after his epic journey. This was at the nearby Stromness whaling station.
Nearly all travelers will arrive on a cruise ship. Smaller vessels may be permitted to dock at the jetty at King Edward Point, which is an easy 1-km walk along a track at sea level from Grytviken station.
You can easily walk around the settlement, although portions of the whaling station and the base on King Edward Point are off-limits to visitors. The hills around the station are also worth exploring for more intrepid visitors, but the terrain can be rough.
The abandoned whaling station has undergone a project to remove all asbestos and dangerous collapsing buildings and may be explored. The station was active in the whaling industry until the middle of the last century. Other popular visitor destinations include the restored Norwegian church, and the cemetery, which contains the grave of the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton.
- 1 Norwegian Anglican Church (Whalers Church).
- 2 Ernest Shackleton's Grave (on the opposite side of the whaling station from the museum). The cemetery is where Shackleton is buried, along with many of the whalers who died on South Georgia. According to a recent programme on BBC Radio 4, the ashes of Frank Wild, Shackleton's right hand man, have been placed alongside Shackleton's grave. Frank Wild was in charge of the men left on Elephant Island for months whilst Shackleton went for help.
- 3 Ernest Shackleton's Cross (at the end of King Edward Point, beyond the British Base). The memorial cairn and cross erected on Hope Point by Sir Ernest Shackleton's men in 1922. A trail to the cross is fairly easy to follow. While visiting, be on the lookout for the very territorial fur seals; should one charge you, it is best to carry a long stick or tripod with which to tickle its whiskers, which surprisingly deters most attacks.
- The wreck of the Argentine landing craft 'Fenix' (King Edward Point). This wreckage is a remnant of the Falkland War of 1982.
- Elephant seals breeding on the point (King Edward Point). 100 to 200 elephant seal pups are born on the point each October/November.
- 4 King Edward Point Research Station (1 km across King Edward Cove). The British Antarctic Survey maintains a presence on the island in a research station on nearby King Edward Point. The Government Officer and Post Officer live here. A Fishery Research station is run by scientists of the British Antarctic Survey for the Government. The winter population of around 14 swells to twice that in summer. Visitors are welcome to pass through on their way to the end of the point, but should take care not to disturb those who live and work here.
- For those who are able to arrange a visit to the King Edward Point Station (prior arrangement only, usually requires knowing a staff member), the following sights can be found on the base:
- Discovery House. The laboratory and accommodation for scientists from the Discovery Investigations. Built in 1925. It is empty but may be developed into a visitor centre one day.
- UCSD Automatic Seismic station sensor bunker (on Hope Point).
- 1 South Georgia Museum. October-March. The museum was established in 1991 and operates in the former whaling station manager's house. Today it is managed by the South Georgia Heritage Trust and provide exhibits about the exploration, whaling and natural history of the island. Most ships visiting the island stop in Grytviken, and the museum is well worth an hour or two of your time. The museum also provides the unique opportunity to talk to staff members about what it is like to spend extended periods living on a remote, sub-Antarctic island.
- Hike up to the reservoir. Located on the hill above the whaling station is a fairly large lake. Footing may be muddy, but the scenery is nice and the view of the bay is excellent. Be aware that terns may begin attacking from the air; if they do it means that you are near their nest and should backtrack until they feel you are a safe distance away.
There is a small gift shop in the museum that sells books of local interest, posters, and sundry other souvenirs. British pounds, Falklands pounds, Euros, and American dollars will all be accepted, as will Visa and Mastercard (but not AMEX). The Post Office is open upon request, 1 km away at King Edward Point, and may be brought aboard larger ships. The Post Office has a range of postcards, stamps, first day covers, South Georgia coins and a few South Georgia Government publications for sale.
You will need to bring your own food.
Shortly after the base at King Edward Point was built, the residents added what was felt to be an important missing feature, and today the bar is the centre of the area nightlife, but it is for use of base personnel only.
Nearly all visitors will spend the night aboard the ship they arrived on. Visitors may stay overnight on land only if they are staff or if they have secured permits (which are quite expensive and must be arranged in advance).
There is a postbox in front of the museum, and stamps and postcards can be purchased in the gift shop. Mail will reach most destinations within two or three weeks. Mail can also be sent from the post office at King Edward Point (KEP).
Certain areas of the whaling station are off limits due to the decaying state of the infrastructure. Fur seals can be found on beaches and rocks throughout the area and may be aggressive, but a charge can usually be easily deterred by using a long stick or tripod to tickle their whiskers. Further afield, terns may attack if you approach their nests too closely. If a tern attacks, retrace your steps to get away from its nest until it stops attacking; you can also hold a stick or tripod over your head as they generally nip at the tallest point of their perceived attacker.