SOUTH GEORGIA’S CEMETERIES
The island of South Georgia lies in the southern Atlantic Ocean on the edge of the Antarctic. During the first half of this century it was used as a base for the whaling industry and shore stations were set up as factories for processing the meat, blubber and bone of the whales.
Three stations in Stromness Bay, – Leith, Stromness, and Husvik – were abandoned in the early 1960s and have become very dilapitaded since then. At these three stations there are four cemeteries where the remains of many men who died in the tough conditions of the whaling industry lie. These too have become very delapidated, with fences broken and rotten, headstones cracked and falling apart, grass and other plants taking over.
The South Georgia Museum Trust, responsible for the upkeep of the Whaling Museum at another whaling station at Grytviken, have funded a project whereby Pat and Sarah Lurcock will spend three months of the southern summer of 1998/99 in Stromness bay and will refurbish the cemeteries with the following aims:
- To repair and rebuild the fences around the cemeteries where possibe, and to build new fences where the old fences are too far gone. The new fences will be of a post and chain design which will hopefully last for many years without further maintenence. With nobody living at the stations any longer there is no opportunity for regular, or even sporadic, painting or other maintenence.
- To stand fallen grave markers back upright and repair broken ones where possible.
- To clear the ground of vegetation and to make the areas tidy.
OUR SUMMER BASE
We will base ourselves at Husvik for most of the summer. There is a good hut there, which was built by the Norwegian whalers and used as the manager’s villa. In more recent times the British Antarctic Survey have based scientists there in the summer and it still has all windows and doors intact. We are taking gas for cooking and and there is already a gas heater in the villa so there will be a modicum of comfort if we need it.
Whilst working on the cemeteries at Stromness and Leith we will ‘camp out’ in buildings in the other stations, and so have placed stores and supplies at all three stations in readiness. We will start at Leith, where there are two cemeteries. Both need new fences so will represent most work. Once we finish there we will move tools and remaining supplies to Stromness and finally back to Husvik.
We have had a lot of help with logistics from the garrison at South Georgia as well as their parent unit in the Falkland Islands who have been kind enough to supply us with ‘compo’ rations and fuel for our camping stove which we will use when based away from Husvik. Not to mention the helicopter help from HMS Edinburgh when the stores were first deployed in Sepember.
Here are a few pictures of the state of the cemeteries before the project starts:
Broken Headstone at Husvik Cemetery
The cemetery within Leith station
The cemetery outside Leith Station
Stop Press: dated March 1999
And now we have finished, here are some pics of the final results:
Thies and Kicki talk with Sarah by the Leith Cemetery
Husvik Cemetery once we had finished
Leith ‘Town’ Cemetery once we had finished
Stromness cemetery once we had finished