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January 2024 South Georgia Museum Blog – Fur Seal puppies stop play

The January SG Museum blog was written by Lauren Elliott – Retail Manager.

January saw us welcome nearly four thousand visitors as we hit the halfway mark of the season. With such a busy visit schedule, good-weather non-ship working days are rare, but we need them to enable us to get some of the outside maintenance tasks done. With such a severe maritime climate items that live outdoor need the help of regular maintenance. Work achieved included sanding and re-oiling the benches outside the museum.

Museum Assistant Bodil tackling some of our outside maintenance tasks for the season

We also tackled another one of our key curatorial tasks for the season – redisplaying the Larsen Room. This involved Curatorial Intern Helen removing old object labels and interpretation panels, filling the many holes that were left in the wall as a result, and then re-painting the whole room! Eventually, she was able to install some beautiful new interpretation panels which tell the story of the early sealing and whaling years at Grytviken.

Curatorial Intern Helen Balfour working on the re-display of the Larsen Room

In addition to our normal visitors, we welcomed some very special guests to Grytviken in January during our ‘Locals Day’ put on for the personnel from King Edward Point station. They were treated to a whaling station tour and a behind-the-scenes look at our collection stores. Our natural history specimens proved to be a particular highlight for them!

The ‘locals’ from King Edward Point on a tour of the abandoned whaling station at Grytviken

2024 is an exciting year for athletes all over the world, it’s a chance to debut the skills they have been harnessing for the past four years, to utilise scientifically calculated nutritional plans and to compete for a spot on the podium. It can only mean one thing: the South Georgia Olympics.
Teams were carefully selected by government officials (by separating the most competitive members of the base), flags were meticulously designed, and strict training programmes began. In the words of our doctor “no longer think of these people as your friends, they don’t mean anything anymore”. Torrential rain and extreme winds were not enough to stop the games, but inquisitive fur seal pups bought events to a stand still and play only resumed when they found something else to look at off into the tussac grass.

After a day of competing and collecting points it all came down to the final event: the relay. The crown was taken tam “The Three Queens and a Weaner” and handmade medals from BAS legend himself Paul Cousens were presented in a medal ceremony. It is worth taking a moment here to highlight the ‘People’s Favourites’ of the day: BAS icons, and mechanical extraordinaires, Bob and Phil. With a last-minute team member pulling out on doctor’s orders, they tackled every event with just two members whilst the rest of the teams had four. Despite this, they won the most points out of everyone! (Never underestimate a team made up of people from “the good old days” of polar life.) The day finished in the only appropriate way for a British sporting event, with pies, chips and peas.

The KEP Olympics proved to be a great success!

With so many visitors in January, the team were regularly asked what we do in our free time. One January evening our free hours were taken over by the beauty South Georgia has to offer. It was a particularly clear night and we were presented with a beautiful candyfloss cloud formation that drew everyone outside to capture the moment. From scientists to government officers to posties and the museum team, we all gathered to marvel at this magical island we are lucky enough to call home.

Spectacular lenticular clouds above King Edward Point
Another view of the spectacular lenticular clouds above King Edward Point

Last, but certainly not least, the end of January in South Georgia wouldn’t be complete without Burns Night. This is a Scottish celebration that occurs on 25 January each year to mark the life of their national poet: Robert Burns. The museum team played a key part in this year’s proceedings, with Helen delivering the ‘Toast to the Laddies’ and SG Director Deirdre performing ‘The Immortal Memory’. As always, however, the South Georgia Burns supper was a multi-agency affair with everyone from Government Officers to British Antarctic Survey staff chipping in. The result was an excellent night of ‘haggis, neeps and tatties’ and enthusiastic ceilidh dancing! All in all, not a bad way to kick off 2024!

Ceilidh dancing is an essential part of any Burns Supper!