In 1775 Captain James Cook was overlooking South Georgia from his vessel HMS Resolution. In his journal he described his view as; ”Lands doomed by Nature to perpetual frigidness, never to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, whose horrible and savage aspect I have no words to describe”. He did however mention the enormous numbers of penguins and seals seen onshore. Shortly after hundreds of British and American hunters came to exploit these resources. It was the beginning of a new Klondike in the Southern Oceans.
More then a hundred years later the first Norwegian whalers arrived and settled in Grytviken. 22. December 1904 the first whale was caught and the first Norwegian oil generated golden years, and a biological nightmare started.
During a 60 year period a total of 175 250 whales were taken from the rich waters around South-Georgia. Oil was produced from meat and bones to be used in cosmetics, lubricants, soap and also for burning in lamps to name a few. Even glycerine was extracted and used for explosives.
Humpback whales were first targeted, and then larger animals like the Blue and Finn whales. After World War II the Humpback was extinct in the Southern Ocean and the other targeted species had dramatically low numbers. The whalers were struggling and went on to capture Elephant Seals during the last years. In the early 60s the Norwegian whalers went home and left Grytviken.
Despite the efforts to wipe out marine life around South Georgia the island still is paradise for any nature lover. All sheltered bays and harbours are teeming with life. Hundreds of thousands of King Penguins gather on the beaches and Fur seals and Elephant Seals fight for their spot on the shore. A truly fascinating place!