November 6, 1914: Grytviken, South Georgia—Whale slaughter on a mammoth scale

–from Frank Hurley’s account “Shackleton’s Argonauts”–

“Ashore, clouds of steam were ascending from an extensive collection of sheds to the mists that wreathed the snow-clad heights. Numbers of whale-carcasses, inflated like balloons, were moored to a buoy just off the cutting-up platforms, or “flensing plan.” Derelict carcasses, stripped of blubber, drifted about the greasy waters, and lay stranded on the beaches in vast profusion.

“We received a noisy welcome from the factory whistles, and a noisome one from the floating carcases that drifted alongside. Our sense divided our impressions of Grytviken. Slimy waters lapped foreshores polluted by offal and refuse, the accumulation of years. Viewed through the reeking atmosphere, with the nose firmly gripped, even the magnificent inland scenery seemed to grow tainted and to lose its splendour.

“But first impressions are apt to be misleading. We were destined to spend an enjoyable month in South Georgia.”


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