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2004 saw the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Grytviken whaling station on South Georgia. Although the activity and personnel were mostly Norwegian, the establishment capital was Argentinian, from Compania Argentina da Pesca.

The station closed in 1965 and has since then been left more or less to the ravages of the climate and of various visitors. The small Norwegian church from 1913, and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave from 1922 are well preserved, and a small museum has been established in the Magistrate’s Villa. Forty four cruise ships visited Grytviken this season.

South Georgia is British territory and the preservation and clearing up work that has been done at Grytviken up to now has been mostly British initiated and financed. Norway has helped with documentation projects and archive work, as well as with specific restoration and maintenance projects such as the church and graveyard.

The current condition of much of this large and complex processing station is precarious, with decaying buildings and a health hazard from loose wind-blown materials and asbestos particles from uncovered insulation material. Tourism is now strictly limited to designated safe areas and paths.

In 2002 the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Government initiated a clean-up operation which was costed at £10 million and aimed in particular at the asbestos health hazard. The operation is intended to secure the area according to British environmental regulations at the same time as protecting the cultural heritage values of the area.

In March 2003, a British-Norwegian group undertook an assessment of how this could be done, ready for a larger operation in future, 100 years after the establishment of what is now an important industrial heritage site in the sub-Antarctic.
(Susan Barr - Sept 2004)

For more information on South Georgia see :

ICOMOS International Polar Heritage Committee
Phone: +44 01223 336564

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