A NEW MUSEUM TEAM ARRIVE READY FOR A BUSY SUMMER AHEAD
It’s a new season with a new team at the South Georgia Museum and all has started in fine style. The number of cruise ships visiting this season is substantially up on last season: 64 booked in total. That should keep us on our toes! We have already hosted three cruise ships, one naval vessel and several yachts.
Unusually Sarah travelled to the island at the same time as the rest of the team. During the course of our trip in, on the Fisheries Patrol Vessel Pharos SG, we were lucky to see the three whaling stations at Stromness. Indeed, our ship went into Leith Harbour on a very fine day, giving us and the GSGSSI builders travelling with us, a great view of this huge complex. The fantastic BBC Four two-part documentary ‘Britain’s Whale Hunters – The Untold Story’ was based on the history of this station. We had all seen the programme and in our minds could replay the presenter bringing the station back to life with his interpretation of the site, the old film footage of the station on full cook and interviews with the old whalers employed there.
Rachel celebrated her birthday on board the Pharos SG. Chilean ship’s cook Heime and steward Jorge did her proud with an enormous and delicious birthday cake. When we arrived at Grytviken, there were mountains of museum cargo awaiting our attention. All the boxes are unpacked in the biosecurity store and carefully checked in case of infestation or other things like seeds amongst the goods and stores. This is a huge job so we all got stuck in to unpacking, checking, counting and carting it all over to the other side of the Cove. The builders kindly let us borrow their Land Rover, and several times it was packed solid then driven gingerly through the remaining winter snow round the rough track; the only bit of road on the island. Sheri and Rachel have been busy unpacking and stowing it all since then. One huge heavy crate contained a very special new display case. Our curator Deirdre was especially excited with this. It is designed to be fully sealed and climate controlled for the benefit of the contents and was ordered specially to keep the Shackleton almanac and other precious Shackleton-related artefacts in the best condition possible. The builders are planning to refurbish several small buildings to the rear of the museum. When removing the tin roof from the old Potato Store they found a most interesting construction. The building is dug into the hillside and the wooden ceiling was covered in a half metre thick layer of locally dug peat sods to insulate the store and keep the contents cool. There was also chalk graffiti on the metal roof trusses from the original builders, a Signor Villa amongst them (several times)! Deirdre and Rachel documented the building before building work continued and set aside some harpoon gunpowder tins dating back to the 1930s and 50s, plus a beautiful wooden Vermouth case. These will be useful for museum displays and some will enter the collection.
It is not just us back to the island, the wildlife is also returning for the spring breeding season. White-chinned petrels call from the hillsides at night, light-mantled sooty albatrosses have taken up nesting sites on the cliffs all around and elephant seals have been popping out pups in the colonies by the cemetery and at King Edward Point. As the month ends, the large super-fat fur seal males are hauling out of the sea to bag bits of beach ahead of the females returning in a few weeks’ time. Now is the time to enjoy relatively unmolested walks on the beaches, by December you do not dare!