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October 2023

Object Title: Illicit still
Object Number:   1992.3.044
In October many people start thinking of ghouls and spirits as Halloween approaches.  In South Georgia the abandoned whaling stations can at times seem full of spirits as they creak and sway, and even whistle, in the island winds, but the October Object of the Month from the South Georgia Museum involves spirits of a different kind!

Most of the whalers working in the whaling stations were not allowed alcohol. One of the tasks of the Policeman/Customs Officer at the Government station of King Edward Point was to search incoming ships to try to find any alcohol stashed aboard that might make its way ashore. But the men were resourceful and there were many homemade stills like this one hidden away in cupboards and eves around the whaling station buildings. Several, like this one have been found.

This still is usually displayed partially hidden in the cupboard in the reconstruction of a whalers’ bunkroom in the museum, complete with a collection of old bottles ready to be filled up.

The men would collect sugar and anything that they could ferment such as rice, potatoes or grain and might beg a little baking yeast from the station bakery to get their fermentation started. Once fermentation of the brew was complete, the fluid could be distilled in a homemade still to produce very strong alcohol. As a result many parties were had in the men’s barracks and aboard the ships.