Tuesday, June 8, 2010

South Georgia Island Church

Click to enlarge.
I love the solemness and austerity of this old church in the abandoned settlement of Grytviken on one of the most remote islands in the world, South Georgia, which lies hundreds of miles to the east of Tierra del Fuego. According to Wikipedia, the church was built by Norwegian whalers in 1913. South Georgia's history goes back to the seventeenth century, when a ship commanded by an English-Huguenot merchant named Anthony de la Roché was blown off course during a trading mission from the Viceroyalty of Peru to Bahia in Brazil.

A NASA satellite image of South Georgia Island.

Remote, inhospitable islands like South Georgia and Tristan da Cunha fascinate me because they seem to attract all sorts of strange historical events and individuals -- witness, for instance, the bizarre tale of Tristan da Cunha's 1811 conquest by three New England sailors who renamed it the 'Islands of Refreshment'. South Georgia has nothing quite so entertaining, but it was visited by Edmund Halley and James Cook, happens to be home to the grave of Ernest Shackleton, and contains the beautiful, stark and desolate church pictured above.

The abandoned whaling station of Grytviken in South George Island, c. 1986.

As an island-related aside, I recently came across a wonderfully detailed website filled with primary source extracts (including ones from manuscripts) relating to the Galapagos Islands. These guides to the manuscripts of the buccaneers Ambrosius Cowley and William Dampier, among others, are particularly useful and interesting.

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