The Main Store at Grytviken, in South Georgia is now open to visitors. The huge two-storey building is the oldest and largest remaining historic building in the abandoned whaling station and heritage site. Over the past five years the Main Store has undergone sympathetic restoration and curation by the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) and SGHT. During the restoration every heritage item was cleaned, recorded and photographed and replaced. Now visitors can walk through the ground floor to get a feel for what life was like for the men working there during the mid-20th century.
Grytviken ceased operations in the mid-1960s after decades of whaling. The whalers expected to return when whale stocks improved, so the stations were left fully equipped and functional. Now the Main Store, built circa 1920, is one of the few remaining original structures. It remains full of original whalers’ stores including harpoon grenades, bone saws, blubber hooks and flensing knives, all essential tools used by whalers for the hunting and production process. There are also thousands of rivets, nuts, bolts, pipes and steam pumps used to maintain and repair the factory, boilers and vessels.
Jayne Pierce, SGHT Curator of the South Georgia Museum said: “The Main Store played an essential role in storing the many supplies needed to keep the remote whaling station and its fleet of vessels running; a huge undertaking. We’ve worked incredibly hard to ensure that the building remains true to its roots, but also to make sure it is preserved for many years to come. The building is presented as closely as possible to how it would have looked during the height of the whaling era.”
Laura Sinclair-Willis, CEO of GSGSSI describes the Main Store as “a time capsule capable of receiving visitors”. She said “Following a Condition Survey and Structural Report of the Main Store published in 2018, our Heritage Build Team, SGHT’s Museum Curator and an Advisory Panel of heritage experts worked over the summer seasons between 2018 – 2023 to remediate the building’s structure. This included repainting the entire exterior, removing modern equipment and materials, installing electrical wiring and period lighting fixtures, and replacing windows, giving us the fully accessible building, we have today.”
The restoration of the Main Store would not have been possible without the generous support of the many organisations and friends with a close affinity to South Georgia. These include Øyas Venner, the Hurtigruten Foundation, the Friends of South Georgia Island, the British Antarctic Survey and the Headley Trust.