Visiting the most remote museum in the world is an adventure in itself
Often referred to as the “museum at the end of the world”, the South Georgia Whale Museum is well worth the detour to get there.
Few people would be willing to deal with multiple modes of transport, or the trouble of discovery a reliable means of transport to bring someone to the “end of the world”. However, there is one destination, in particular, located almost on the edge of the Antarctic Circle, which might just be worth the trip.
On the island of South Georgia (not Georgia, the US state) travelers will find no permanent population or settlement. What they will find, however, is the southernmost museum in the world – one that has recently caught the eye due to its exciting reopening.
So why would anyone want to travel so far to see a museum? Let’s find out.
The South Georgia Whale Museum
To be fair, there aren’t many redeeming qualities of such a place – with freezing temperatures, no way to import fresh food, and a journey that usually takes days just to get in and out of the Isle. That being said, the beauty of South Georgia and the South Georgia Whale Museum, in general, is found in its not-so-subtle remoteness. Initially, the South Georgia Whaling Museum’s goal began as an initiative to clean up abandoned whaling stations that were left behind when the industry died out. This project started in 1989, and Nigel Bonner, the museum’s founder, had this to say about the initiative:
“I think we are serving a useful function: visitors are obviously interested and, above all, impressed. If this leads them to think a little deeper about the whaling industry, natural resource management and I think we’ll have achieved our goal.
A construction project in the Arctic might not get as much attention as, say, a construction project in the middle of New York City. The beginnings of the South Georgia Whaling Museum were humble, and the suggestion for a museum came from David Wynn-Williams, who was an Antarctic scientist in 1989. It was then that Nigel Bonner, having extensive experience living in Georgia South at the time, founded it; three years later, the South Georgia Whaling Museum opened. Over time, many museum buildings have been renovated, including the director’s villa, the “little villa” and the church chapel.
Visit the South Georgia Whale Museum
Those who travel to Grytviken will be impressed with all that this ultra-remote region has to offer. Although it is the most remote museum in the world, it also houses an extensive collection of historical artifacts which obviously cannot be seen anywhere else. The complete history of whaling in South Georgia is detailed through a number of exhibits:
- Grytviken Church
- Exhibition News
- Jarvis Room
- Princely Room
- Bonner Room
- Fullerton Hall
- Feedback room
- Allardyce Room
- Ringdal, or whaler’s superimposed chamber
- Hall of pits or hall of trades of the whaler
- The Carr Maritime Gallery
This museum may look small on the outside but offers a wealth of information to its visitors that takes up most of a full day. Upon entering the main building, each room is easily accessible for self-guided tours, with the Carr Maritime Gallery right next door and the church a short walk away.
- Do: Whaling in the area ceased completely in 1964 when the museum (before being a proper museum) lay dormant for two decades).
As one walks through each room, these carefully curated exhibits include artifacts from the height of the whaling era that are barely seen in the world today. Newspaper clippings and documents of interest also line the walls, further detailing the background of whaling in South Georgia. Some rooms, such as the Fullerton Room, even include full screens such as a surveying setup, complete with tent and surveying equipment.
Visitors can see additional artifacts such as:
- Whale oil samples
- Life-size albatross replica
- Plans of the original whalers
- The preserved fetus of a humpback whale
- Ship replicas, such as the James Caird
- Various tools used for whaling
- Original expedition outfits and uniforms
- Other life-size replicas of animals native to South Georgia
In addition to seeing the museum, visitors can walk around the park and also stop at Grytviken Cemetery.
Visit Grytviken, South Georgia
As implied, visiting this island is not an easy task. Those who work at the museum experience a week long trip just to reach the island – with flights from the UK to the Falkland Islands, another flight to Cape Verde and a final journey on a fishing boat which takes up to six days on its own.
Travelers have another option, however, and that is to board a cruise from Argentina. These ships take visitors to South Georgia, with about 100 ships each year, according to BBC. Before the pandemic, it was estimated that there were around 10,000 visitors a year to South Georgia Island.
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