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South Georgian Grytviken Church Centenary: Remembering a Storied Past & Looking to the Future


This past Christmas Day marked the centenary of the church at the Grytviken (pronounced “grit-vick-in”) whaling station on the island of South Georgia. Celebrations marked an opportunity to reflect on a hundred years of nautical history, but also to look forward, to a future of conservation, culture and natural beauty on the South Atlantic island. Consecrated December 25, 1913, the church is one of a handful of historical buildings in Grytviken and is the only to have retained its original function throughout the years.

The Whaler’s Church is maintained by the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT), a charitable organization tasked with preserving the history and spectacular environment of the island. They help to address the financial challenges of maintaining properties on a remote island where fishing and visitor landing fees are the primary sources of government income.

Anthony Smith, acclaimed sculptor and SGHT’s Artist-in-Residence, describes the pre-celebration scene in Grytviken: “The last weeks have also seen an increase in activity in and around the Whalers' Church. Several hours were spent shimmying up and down ladders and putting up all the Christmas decorations.”


The Whalers Church The Whalers Church, Photo credit: Anthony Smith, SGHT

Initiatives like their Habitat Restoration Project are working to restore and preserve South Georgia’s heritage and natural habitat, a wonder for Quark Expeditions’ travelers on our Epic Antarctica journey.

The Whaler’s Church is an important site for our South Georgia visitors, particularly those interested in the rich whaling history of the community. It has served whalers and their families over the last century for baptisms, marriages and funerals, including that of Sir Ernest Shackleton. The Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Stanley, the Very Reverend Harold Lumsdale, was present on December 17, 1932 to consecrate Sir Shackleton's grave after a monument had been unveiled by the Governor on February 24, 1928.

The founder of Grytviken, Norwegian Captain Carl Anton Larsen, initially consulted with the Norske Sjømannsmisjon (Norwegian Mission to Seamen) on the construction of a church in the town, one of just six whaling stations on the island. His goal was to provide a resident pastor for the benefit of the whalers. Discussions with their Buenos Aires mission pastor Ivar Welle kicked off in February 1910, with further meetings in May 1911 expanding to include James Wilson, Falkland Islands Dependencies Magistrate at the time.

Larsen would provide the stipend for the new resident pastor, Kristen Løken, a newly ordained priest who arrived in Grytviken from Lillehammer in April, 1912. A local congregational meeting was held in April 1913, where Larsen and Løken gained support for the construction of a new church. Employees of the whaling station raised funds for the build and necessities such as the bells, an altar, hymnals and furnishings, while Larsen himself donated the largest sum and guaranteed the balance. The church would serve a dual purpose in the tiny whaling community, as both a house of worship and a library for the whalers.


Grytviken Harbour Grytviken Harbour. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Built to accommodate 200 people, the church was designed by architect Adalbert Kielland, Larsen’s son-in-law, and prefabricated by Norwegian Strømmen Trævarefabrik. The erection of the church in Grytviken began on November 25, 1913, with the bells first ringing out at midnight on Christmas Eve a month later. Whalers from all stations attended the consecration events Christmas Eve and the following day.

Today, visitors sit on the same long, wooden benches looking up to the single nave and small altar, in the church that long provided a comfortable place of worship for weary seaman and their families. A small library sits off to the side; a staircase at the front of the church leads to a second floor viewing area. Take in the view of Grytviken, the British settlement founded in 1904 by Larsen himself, from windows at each end.

In the years since, many different Christian denominations have used the church first designated a Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church, especially at Christmas. Norwegian clerics, pastors, deacons and Royal Naval chaplains alike have held services at Grytviken in its hundred-year history.

South Georgia is often called the Galapagos of the Poles; you’ll see why at each landing on Days 8 to 11 of Crossing the Circle via Falklands and South Georgia: Epic Antarctica. The exceptional quality and diversity of wildlife here might expose you to a hundred thousand pairs of king penguins marching the beach, or elephant seals lounging on the shoreline. Skua, South Georgia pintail, sheathbill and giant petrel abound in this naturally mountainous paradise.


South Georgia South Georgia, Photo Credit: Quark Passenger

SGHT works hard to ensure the South Georgia habitat remains ecologically sound and preserved for future visitors. In 2013, they accomplished Phase Two of their Habitat Restoration Project, effectively eradicating a 580 km2 area of rodents in their efforts to “give South Georgia back to its birds.” Since 2006, they’ve also managed the South Georgia Museum, home to decades of documents and artefacts from the island’s sealing and whaling eras.

Experience all this at Grytviken, just one incredible stop on a 23-day expedition from Argentina to the Antarctic Circle via the Falkland Islands and beautiful South Georgia.

With files from R. K. Headland


Quark Doctor Puts her Stamp on Nature Photography


For British doctor, Dr. Samantha Crimmin, one of Quark's onboard doctors, work and play have dovetailed in the most remarkable of ways.

The emergency medicine doctor, and amateur photographer, spent a year in South Georgia working as a medical officer for the British Antarctic Survey and given the scant population on the island, found she had lots of time on her hands. "To make up for the lack of patients, the island’s doctor becomes an apprentice in all trades... I weighed penguins and fur seal pups. I drove boats, learnt to bake bread, sold stamps and ran a post office. I learnt photography. I met some amazing people and was fortunate enough to spend a year in a very special place," said Dr. Crimmin.

In Dr. Crimmin's case, "learning photography" meant capturing some of the most incredible photos of this wildlife paradise you've ever seen. Though judging by the South Georgia landscape -- also known as the Galapagos of the Poles -- it's hard to imagine that anyone can't take beautiful photographs, really.

Recently, some of her long-exposure photos of the night sky were selected by the South Georgia government to become official stamps. Leaving her shutter open for 30 seconds at a time for a two-hour period, Dr. Crimmin was able to capture the trail the stars left behind them. And with the nearest light pollution being more than 800 miles (1300 km) away, the end result is something you need to see for yourself.

South Georgia government has used another night sky image of Dr. Samantha Crimmin for the church centenary stamp issue.


Church Centenary Stamp Church centenary stamp

To view more of Dr. Samantha Crimmin's stunning photograpghy visit: A year on South Georgia by Sam Crimmin, Quark Expedition Doctor






A year on South Georgia: Sam Crimmin, Quark Expeditions Doctor


“If you were to take a giant caring knife, slice along beneath on of the highest mountain ridges of Switzerland, just where the huge glaciers tumble into the valley below, and then drop your slice of mountain, dripping with sugar-icing, into the sea, I think you would get a fair idea of the place. For it is long and narrow and everywhere the snow covered mountains rise straight from the water, reaching near the centre of the island to a height of over 9,000 feet. Seen from afar on an early spring day , South Georgia is a breathtaking sight and one not easily forgotten.” Niall Rankin. 1946


Grytviken on a summer morning Grytviken on a summer morning

From 2010 to 2012 I worked as medical officer for the British Antarctic Survey and lived on the island of South Georgia. My home for that time, the research base at King Edward Point, houses 35 people in the summer and 12 in the winter. There are no roads so travel is limited to places accessible by foot or by small boats. There is no television and very limited internet access. Food is delivered once a year with fresh supplies every 10-12 weeks. In the summer there is the occasional night out on a visiting cruise ship and the odd holiday on a type 42 British Navy Destroyer. For residents of KEP the majority of time is spent in Cumberland Bay and the surrounding area.


Cumberland Bay from the top of Mount Duse Cumberland Bay from the top of Mount Duse, King Edward Point Reseach

Station to the bottom right. I often get asked whether I got bored living for a year and a half in such an isolated community. The answer is NO. Getting to experience the island the year round was a fascinating and ever changing experience. Its hard to put into words but with the help of pictures I shall try.
Spring and Summer on South Georgia are green. Maybe not what you would expect from an Antarctic isle but as the seasons progress and the grasses come back with vengeance the island begins to earn its name as the Galapagos of the Antarctic. A name that personally I think does SG an injustice, having visited both I can vouch that South Georgia wins a thousand times over.

WildlifeA year on South Georgia4

As winter ends the wildlife returns from the sea and the beaches fill until there isn’t a space that isn’t occupied by a seal or penguin. The local seal science research area regains its population and then some. Evans Lake, locally known as Puppy Lake, soon resembles a scene out of Jurassic park with the water and land teaming with life.


The noises change. In spring the bull elephant seals can be heard from kilometers across the bay. Later the Fur Seals take over with barks and “ouff chuff”.The King Penguin colony on the beach outside the research station accommodation block grows and the three am hooting gets louder. Through the year the light changes. South Georgia isn’t far enough South to get total light or darkness but as summer turns into Autumn the evening light is spectacular. The kelp in cove glows gold at sunset and the sunrises are more and more beautiful. As the nights get longer and darker and the night sky becomes a canopy of stars stretching from the sea to the mountains.

A year on South Georgia11

In Autumn the weather begins to change, the cold winds from the Antarctic peninsular hit the high peaks of South Georgia exposed Southern Coast resulting in some incredible lenticular clouds. Cloud watching becomes a favorite pastime.

A year on South Georgia12

Early winter is a time of ice. More and more often the temperature dips below zero. Ice starts to form on the ground. Icicles hang from tussock grass, rock faces and the buildings. The sea in cove starts to free over. To start with pancake ice forms, as the tide goes in and out these round flat ice formations wash up on the shore. As it gets colder sea ice covers the bay. In the calmer part of Cumberland bay, Morraine Fjord, the whole area freezes over.

A year on South Georgia13

As winter progresses the early snows get thicker and thicker. For two months of the year travel is by ski or snow shoe only. During August and late winter snow is so deep that the research station is nearly
buried. For six weeks life at KEP is in the shade as the sun doesn’t reach above the mountains.

A year on South Georgia14

By September the snow is gradually melting and the wildlife is being to return ready for another year. I left the island in Jan 2012 and only stayed away for 10 months before I found my way back, this time working on a South Georgia Government Conservation project. To get there I hitched a ride on the Ocean Diamond, as we approached the island had something new. We sailed through a sea of icebergs fresh up from the Weddell sea.


A year on South Georgia15 Cumberland Bay ice 2012. Photo taken my Martin Collins

This year I am returning to South Georgia with Quark and the South Georgia government. I can’t wait!


The Top 5 Reasons to add Antarctica to your bucket list!


1. Be one of only a few people to Step foot on the 7th continent

Antarctica Hike

2. Enjoy zodiac cruising and get up close to 400 year old icebergs

Zodiac Antarctica

3. Visit historical landing sites, including the Scott Research Centre

Antarctica King Penguin

4. Marvel at thousands of King Penguins and encounter up to 13 other penguin species

Antarctica Sea Spirit Penguins

5. Cross the Arctic Circle and travel furthest south on the planet


Undoubtedly Antarctica is one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in the world! For more information on our amazing Expeditions check out: Antarctica Cruises and Travel




King of South Georgia


An Antarctic fur seal in South Georgia reclines, surveying his land.


Thanks to Dr. Samantha Crimmin who submitted this photo from her South Georgia and Falklands voyage with us!


Quark Expeditions Announces 2014 - 2015 Antarctic Season


33 departures featuring two extended “Epic” voyages

Quark Expeditions, the leader in polar adventures, today announced the company’s Antarctic 2014-2015 season. Highlights of the season include two extended voyages that will offer passengers Southern Ocean and Antarctica once-in-a-lifetime adventures in and around the 7th continent. With 33 departures starting November 5, 2014, Quark offers more Antarctic voyages than any other Polar operator.


New Expedition Added
Antarctica’s Scotia Arc: The Ultimate Insider’s Voyage
A highlight of the 2014 holiday schedule, this 25-day voyage takes travelers off the beaten track – to rare and seldom-visited sites of the Scotia Sea – for a true insider’s journey to Antarctica. This expedition will follow the Scotia Arc, a sub-marine mountain range extending from the southernmost Andes, all the way through to the Antarctic Peninsula, calling in at the beautiful Falklands and South Georgia before heading south to the lesser-known and more remote South Sandwich, South Orkney and South Shetland archipelagos. Passengers will experience active volcanoes, rich bird life and some of the largest penguin colonies in Antarctica, all set against a rich historical background. One departure: December 15, 2014, starting at US$19,595.


Back by Popular Demand with Additional Departure
Crossing the Circle via Falklands and South Georgia: Epic Antarctica
A sell-out for the 2013.14 season, the 23-day Epic Antarctica voyage is the only one of its kind to take passengers to South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, and the Antarctic Peninsula exploring farther south across the Antarctic Circle. This extensive itinerary offers travelers a chance to see seven species of penguins and more than 30 species of birds while visiting the ‘Galapagos of the Poles.’ Two departures: December 2014 and January 2015, starting at US$18,995.

The largest of Quark’s fleet, the ‘Super Yacht,’ Ocean Diamond, is back with Quark Expeditions for its third season of Carbon Neutral Voyages™, along with the Sea Spirit, Quark’s luxury adventure ‘all-suites’ ship and the Sea Adventurer. All Quark’s ships feature outside cabins with en-suite facilities, internet access, a Polar Boutique, and a Polar Library.

How to Book
As an early booking incentive, travelers who reserve by September 30, 2013 will receive a 20% discount on suites* and 10% off on all other cabin categories. All bookings made during July 2013 will receive an additional 5% off.**
For more information contact a Quark Polar Travel Adviser at 888-892-0073 or visit www.quarkexpeditions.com.
*discount only available on top two suites categories
**some conditions apply


South Georgia in the sunshine


Pristine ice and snow from the Sea Spirit in Fortuna Bay, South Georgia - a perfect view for our ice photo today!


Photo credit: Kyle Marquardt, taken during a South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula voyage, aboard our ship the Sea Spirit.


Got an ice photo of your own to share? Post it to twitter and tag with #IcePhoto! Follow Quark Expeditions on twitter @quarkexpedition where we share photos and videos and chat about all things polar!

Follow us: @QuarkExpedition on Twitter | QuarkExpeditions on Facebook


King penguin chicks


Today's photo comes from passenger Judith Conning who says "I thought you might like one of my favourite images from South Georgia/Antarctica 2008. About time I did another trip."


We'd love to have you join us again Judith! Thanks for sending in your photo!

If you'd like to see the incredible king penguin colonies of South Georgia, we recommend our Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica voyage - a photographer's dream!


Starry Starry Night in South Georgia


A starry night sky in South Georgia.


This was sent to us by Dr. Samantha Crimmin from her travels with Quark over the past Antarctic season.


A view for two


Two king penguins take in the view on a perfect Antarctic Day!


Photo taken by a Quark Expeditions passenger on our Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica voyage.


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