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Silver trophy

June 2021

Object Title: Silver Trophy

Object Number: 2015.11.1-33

This months Object of the Month was chosen by Jerome Viard. Jerome worked at the South Georgia Museum as a Museum Assistant in 2019-20.

John Ostling won first place in the ski jumping competition at Grytviken on the 13th of August 1916 and was awarded this fine silver trophy. The cup is 16.5 cm high and is adorned with beautiful flowers and leaves all around it.  Woking for the South Georgia Museum in 2019-2020 I helped to catalogue this object, one of five silver trophies. Part of the process involved taking detailed photographs.

Ski jumping is a Norwegian national sport and many of the workers at the whaling stations were skilled jumpers. After all, it is famously known that ‘Norwegians are born with skis on their feet’ as the old saying states. The first evidence of skiing in Norway dates back to 5000 BC and even the word ‘ski’ comes from the Old Norse ‘skíð’, meaning ‘stick of wood’.

A ski jump, commonly referred to as a hill, consists of the jumping ramp, take-off table and a landing hill. There were ski jumping venues set up at Grytviken and Leith Harbour whaling stations. The ski jump was used by the whalers in their leisure time as well as for competitions between the different South Georgia whaling station teams. Winter sport competitions in South Georgia started in 1913 with cross-country skiing and ski-jumping. In 1939, the Norwegian Sigurd Hansen set the hill record of 39 meters.

The ski jump overlooking Grytviken in 1954
A jumper inflight at Grytviken







The Grytviken ski jump was built on the hill behind the church.  It had a ‘K’ point of 35 meters. (The ‘K’ point is where the steepest part of the hill ends and the hill begins to flatten out. Jumpers try to jump past the ‘K’ point.)

There were men of many different nationalities working at the whaling stations who would sportingly have a go in the skiing competitions. It is said that when the Argentines, South Europeans and British put on their skis and took off at the end of the ski ramp, ‘it could look a bit strange’ to the more accomplished Norwegians.  The second hospital at Grytviken was built close by, which could be quite convenient if the jumpers did not land well…

The winner of this trophy, John Ostling, was obviously a very good skier; he won first place at the winters sports at Grytviken in 1913, 1915 and 1916. The award ceremony sometimes took place in the nearby church; there might even a little orchestra playing music to mark the occasion.

The remains of the ski jump can still be seen today on the hill to the right of the church
The wooden remains of the ski jump sit prominently on the hillside, over looking the Grytviken whaling station








I chose that object because it demonstrates that, even so far away from home, even on an inhospitable and remote sub-Antarctic island, people still find a way to come together and celebrate camaraderie through sport. These competitions were keenly anticipated by the South Georgia whaling community. Today the temporary residents of South Georgia still organise sporting events where all come together to exercise, compete and celebrate. Football matches are organised, often against visiting ships crews. A famous half-marathon takes place on the roughest terrain, a model boat regatta is held on Gull Lake, and other countless table tennis tournaments, darts, badminton and volley ball games are organised.

The South Georgia Museum exhibits a number of these beautifully crafted sporting trophies.