Grytviken Cemetery

The Grytviken cemetery is a 10-minute walk from the museum and contains the famous grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Hazards from the sea, weather, shipwreck, disease, accidents, the nature of employment, and other things have resulted in many deaths. 64 people are buried here, many have interesting stories to tell, including the graves of the whalers and sealers, one of which dates as far back as 1838 plus Felix Artuso, a Submariner who died during the brief Argentine armed occupation in 1982.

One of the earliest recorded vessels to the island was the Esther in July 1846 – a series of graves indicate her presence. At the Grytviken cemetery, a repaired wooden marker is inscribed: ‘In memory of W.H. Dyre, Surgeon of the Esther of London. Jas Carrick, Master. July 1846.’ and four of the nine unmarked graves in that cemetery are said to be of her crew, all having reportedly died of typhus. The original grave marker is now in the museum collection, taken from the site for protection in 1995. The markers can be seen in the photographs below and replicas have been erected in the cemetery.

It is uncertain if this was a sealing voyage and the ship probably arrived at South Georgia about the middle of winter. If it were it would have been the last British voyage in the first epoch of South Georgia sealing.

There was a gap of over twenty years before the next known voyage to the island. Other early graves are from the winter of 1912, when a typhoid epidemic hit the station. During the first year of Pastor Loken’s residence on South Georgia a typhus epidemic occurred at Grytviken and nine men died during the winter of 1912. This arrived with a ship from Buenos Aires and infected 17% of the whaling station’s personnel. King Edward Point and Grytviken remained in quarantine throughout the 1912 winter. These and many other deaths are listed in the church book.

The site is famous for the grave of Sir Earnest Shackleton. On the 24 February 1928, Magistrate William Barlas unveiled the carved granite memorial, erected over Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave. The memorial, paid for by public subscription, stands prominently in the Grytviken cemetery. The front bears a nine-pointed star, a symbol associated with the Shackleton family; the reverse a quotation from Robert Browning ‘I hold that a man should strive to the uttermostfor his life’s set prize’.

On 2 September 1941, the Magistrate William Barlas died following the effects of an avalanche which knocked him into the sea. It fell on the track between King Edward Point and Grytviken where he was proceeding on duty. He had been Deputy Magistrate at South Georgia since 1920 and Magistrate since 1928, as well as serving in other posts in the Falkland Islands Dependencies. He too is buried in the Grytviken cemetery.

Many visitors come to South Georgia each year – in 2019 over seventy cruise ship visits brought over 11,00 thousand visitors in the summer as well as scientists on research ships, military visitors and yachts. Most come to see Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave in particular so the cemetery is popular. To prevent trampling of the other graves, visiting groups are asked to limit the number of people inside the cemetery at any time to 100.

Each whaling station had a graveyard and there are around 200 graves on the island. Read more on wildIsland.gs.