Stromness, South Georgia

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South Georgia and
the South Sandwich Islands
Stromness 001.jpg
Ruins of the whaling station at Stromness
Location: 54°9’36"S, 36°42’42"W
Local Government
Stromness Bay – L to R: Husvik, Stromness, Leith Harbour

Stromness is a former whaling station on the northern coast of South Georgia. Its historical significance is that it represents the destination of Ernest Shackleton's epic rescue journey in 1916.

Stromness is the central of three harbours in the west side of Stromness Bay, with Leith Harbour to the north and Husvik to the south. The three are linked by a rough track and may be visited in turn, except when the track is occupied by fiercely territorial fur seals during the spring breeding season (November and December).

The name "Fridtjof Nansen" or Nansen appeared for this harbour on some early charts, but since about 1920 the name Stromness has been consistently used. The name Stromness comes from the Stromness in Orkney.


In 1907 a "floating factory" was erected in Stromness Harbour. The land station was built in 1912. From 1912 until 1931 Stromness operated as a whaling station, the first manager of which was Petter Sørlle. The manager's home and office has been dubbed the "Villa at Stromness" because it represents relative luxury compared to its surroundings.

In 1931 Stromness was converted into a ship repair yard with a machine shop and a foundry. It remained operational until 1961 when the site was abandoned.

Historical and modern settlements of South Georgia

In 1916, Ernest Shackleton and a small crew landed on the unpopulated southern coast of South Georgia at King Haakon Bay after an arduous sea voyage from Elephant Island in the 22-foot lifeboat James Caird. The boat was damaged on landing and so could not be sailed around the island, so while the others of the boat party remained at Peggotty Camp, Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley trekked across South Georgia's mountainous and glaciated interior in an effort to reach help on the populated northern shore of the island.

After 36 hours of crossing the interior the three arrived at the Stromness administration centre which also was the home of the Norwegian whaling station's manager, Petter Sørlle. Sørlle knew Shackleton from his earlier visit to Grytviken, but was hard pressed to recognise the grizzled phantom who appeared at his station. All men were rescued from Elephant Island.

Stromness today

In the decades following its closure, Stromness has been subject to damage from the elements and many of its buildings have been reduced to ruins. However, recent efforts have been made to restore the Villa and clean up debris from the rest of the site in order to make it safe for visitors.

Outside Stromness is a small whalers' cemetery with 14 grave markers.



Gazetteer and Map of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands: Stromness, South Georgia