+27 (0)82 4000 470 rob@robcaskie.com

Ernest Shackleton maintained that superhuman effort wasn’t worth a damn unless it achieved results. Mike Holdcroft always said if you push against a wall all day, and the wall doesn’t move or fall over, you have achieved nothing. Surgeon Alexander Macklin’s efforts were in vain trying to extend Shackleton’s life onboard Quest on 4/5 January 1922.

Today we dropped guests off at 6.30am, to hike from Maiviken to Grytviken, in the most glorious weather. They negotiated the Fur Seals, Tussock grass and boggy ground, to arrive in Grytviken as we were disembarking guests in Grytviken at 9am.
I was unable to join the hike, as my responsibilities lay with Shackleton’s grave and story in the cemetery. Grytviken means “Pot Cove”, named for the sealers’ tripots discovered here. As a bay within a bay, it is the finest harbour in South Georgia, chosen by Norwegian Captain Carl Anton Larsen for the first whaling station on South Georgia. Established in November 1904, with a small fleet of ships arriving to build a whaling station. Initially the profits were enormous, but whaling collapsed within 60 years due to the scarcity of whales. The landscape around Grytviken is magnificent, but most folks visiting view Shackleton’s grave as their prime reason to visit this site. The grave itself has a massive granite footstone, since Shackleton wanted to be buried facing Antarctica (south). On the reverse of the stone are Robert Browning’s words “Í hold that a man should strive for the uttermost of his Life’s set prize.” Browning was one of Shackleton’s favourite poets. Alongside The Boss’s grave is a simple granite plinth, beneath which lie Frank Wild’s ashes. The inscription reads simply Shackleton’s Right Hand Man. I spoke to each group of guests about Shackleton’s end, and why he is buried here, remembered also with a stone cairn and cross erected by his men on King Edward Point at the time of his death.

Due to Covid, we were not allowed to enter any of the buildings, including the museum and church. At the height of the whaling boom, 400 men lived at Grytviken. It is very difficult to imagine the noise, the smell, the pressures to kill more whales in order to earn bonuses before winter ceased operations.
The ship re-positioned over lunch, and we visited Fortuna Bay in the afternoon. This is the valley which Shackleton, Crean and Worsley descended believing mistakenly that it was the Stromness valley, and had to make their exhausted way over the mountain ridge to Stromness Station. Guests were given the opportunity to walk amongst Antarctic Fur Seals, Elephant Seals and many birds to a breeding King Penguin colony. For almost all these guests, it was their first encounter with Antarctic Fur Seals, and Marco’s warnings at Recaps were suddenly abundantly clear. These seals have hinged pelvises, and are able to move at high speed, rather like a dog. At this time, they are breeding, so both males and females can be aggressive. The Expedition Team spent the afternoon guiding and escorting guests, and trying to find safe ways past the seals who reign supreme along the beaches. The little pups are very cute to look at, but pugnacious in temperament. Female crew members were especially nervous of the Fur Seals.
This evening I sat with a delightful family from Seattle. The conversation flowed easily about storytelling, areas of interest, places to visit in South Africa, and England, American consumerism and the uncertainties of this trip with sons working in London and San Francisco. The wind and weather forecast for tomorrow is looking poor, so plans have been changed accordingly.

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