Adele arrives in a rain-swept, moody-looking South Georgia


We’re now safely tucked up at anchor in King Edward Cove off the Grytviken settlement on South Georgia. On one side of the bay is what’s left of the extraordinary disused whaling station which thrived for almost 60 years from 1904 when it was established by the Norwegians who arrived here without permission. The Brits put their foot down a couple of years later and agreed to lease the land for the whalers.

Yachting World readers may remember that Tim and Pauline Carr were based in Grytviken for many years aboard their tiny yacht Curlew. The yacht’s now in the Maritime Museum in Cornwall but Tim and Pauline are still very much involved locally as guides recently helping to lead a group who were visiting South Georgia on the cruise ship The World. Quite a change from Curlew but there are few people able to impart such detailed local knowledge!

On the other side of the cove are the more salubrious buildings of the British Antarctic Survey and the local government at King Edward Point. Since the withdrawal of a military presence following the Falklands War much has been done to upgrade the buildings here and I can safely say that those taking up a posting can expect all mod cons, an incongruously high level of comfort and one of the best views from a laboratory imaginable.

Our first visitor was Emma, the Government Officer who arrived with her diplomatic bag to check us all in, a process which included a much sought after passport stamp. She also invited our 18 strong party of crew and guests to drinks at the Commissioner’s house, an invitation which will effectively almost double the population of the island – and it’s boosted at the moment by a team of builders carrying out survey work on a disused hydro-electric generating plant which they are hoping to have up and running by the end of the next southern hemisphere summer.

Apart from the standard warnings about protecting the flora and fauna Emma also advised us not to walk on the bed of the lake which is being surveyed for the hydro-electric plant. “We found unexploded ordnance, including a live hand grenade. If you find something mark it with stones, photograph it, get GPS coordinates and tell us,” she said.

Pretty anxious to get ashore after a full three days at sea, we were ferried ashore in one of Adele’s tenders for a quick look at the whaling station, Shackleton’s grave which is laid pointing south rather than east in recognition of his extraordinary Antarctic heroics, and a leg stretch to Gull Lake where the hydro-electric work is going on.

In the increasing gloom we returned to Adele for yet another slap up dinner, but before we sat down we made sure all the curtains in the deckhouse were drawn and the lights on the yacht were extinguished. If you don’t do this there is a good chance of a bird strike? they are attracted to the pinpoints of light and can fly straight into windows with disastrous results.