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November 2020


The Curator, Jayne, chooses one of her favourite objects from the museum.

The South Georgia version of the Ten Commandments

Composed by an overwintering whaler at Leith Harbour in 1956.

Objects can evoke strong memories. In the museum there is an unassuming piece of paper that sits on the wall, but when you look closer to read, the words manage to make a strong connection to the past. You are instantly connected to the whalers that worked on the whaling station at Grytviken in South Georgia. The museum is filled with objects from the whaling days but most are items I find no real connection with. This poem, although only typed words, had an impact and I often refer to it. My first season on South Georgia was an adventure and a huge learning curve. Not only was I exploring my new role as the Curator of the museum but also being transported to a life on an island at the end of the world for 6 months. Connection to the outside world was limited, plus food and other supplies are delivered only once a year and so you have to make do with what resources there are. Not complaining about the slow mail and the awful meat balls is as relevant today as it was 70 years ago.

Monthly treat ration for the museum team.

On our days off we would go for hikes together and often try to make up poems and limericks about our experiences. One of the Museum Assistants was also inspired to write songs. For my birthday, my museum colleagues created my own island ‘Curators Prayer’ which now sits on my wall at home and makes me smile and sparks memories whenever I look at it.

The whalers Ten Commandments brings fun to what was an incredibly hard job in a remote environment, but for the museum team this season, luckily, we were given monthly treats so no horrible deaths resulted.

The whalers canteen

The Ten Commandments

  1. Thou shalt not steal (chops)
  2. Thou shalt not harbour any heaters in thy Cabin nor in thy Mates cabin.
  3. Thou shalt not complain about Mail.
  4. Thou shalt not turn thy nose up at meat balls.
  5. Thou shalt not curse the cook nor his staff nor anyone within his gallery.
  6. Thou shalt not use the engineer’s W.C (toilet).
  7. Thou shalt not throw any residue of meals out thy Cabin window, nor from thy mates cabin window.
  8. Thou shalt not feed Seagulls.
  9. Thou shalt not make nor consume ‘Home Brew’ in thy cabin nor in thy mates cabin.
  10. Thou shalt not enjoy thyself at all.

An on the seventh day they all died a horrible death.