Historia y Arqueologia Marítima


Indice Balleneros

Ocean Harbour (antes conocido como New Fortuna Bay) 1909-20

Este sitio estaba ocupado por la Cia. ballenera  Ocean Ltd. de Noruega entre 1909 y 1920, cuando se unió a otra cia en el área y se mudo todo a Stromness. Ocean Ltd. fue fundada por Lauritz E Larsen de Narvik, habia sido el segundo a cargo de Grytviken bajo su hermano CA Larsen y obtuvo una concesion para la caza de ballenas, valida a partir del 1 de Octubre de 1909.

Los términos de la concesion era que todas las partes de la ballena debian ser utilizadas. Esto significó que la cia. no podia suplementar sus operaciones usando buques factorias, la practica usual para otras estaciones. La estacion que se construyó estaba equipada para cocinar la grasa, carne y huesos y tambien era una fábrica de guano. Fue la primera en producir guano en la isla. La estacion costera de New Fortuna Bay era la que estaba más al sur en la isla.

Al unirse con Sandefjords Hvalfangerselskab en 1920, la estacion fué desmantelada y trasladada a Stromness. Esta es la única estacion en usar locomotaras, cuyos restos aun quedaban hace algunos años.

Esta foto muestra una antigua locomotora en 1982 (foto de RK Headland), se informa que ha estado asidesde 1926 por lo menos, puede haber sido volcada para retirar los rieles. Las fotos que siguen fueron donadas a la Narrow Gauge Railway Society, autor desconocido. Muestran otra vista de la misma locomotora, desde el lado de la cabina y desde el frente.

Una maquina estacionaria de vapor de un solo cilindro y casi a su lado, un malacate


Queda un cementerio en la costa sur de Ocean Harbour, alejado de la estacion. La tumba mas antigua de la isla (Frank Cabriel, cazador de focas, enterrado en 1820) esta aquí. Se sabe de siete nombres, aunque las lápidas están muy desgastadas como para reconocer no mas de una. Se cree que la octava es el enterramiento de un esqueleto encontrado cuando instalaron la estacion.

Las cartas que se copian abajo fueron enviadas por un marinero que hacia su primer viaje. Me disculparan que no las traduzco aun por falta de tiempo. Describe las condiciones de vida en Georgias en 1916-17, especificamente en Fortuna Bay.

A farm boy in the Southern Antarctic Ocean

- letters home from New Fortune Bay

By Dag Ingemar Børresen, Sandefjordmuseene (Excerpt from article in "Sophus", Larvik Museums historical publicationt, April 2004)

Letters from a "rookie" (first time sailor)

At the age of 22 Nils Andersen Skisaker from Tjølling in Vestfold sailed out on his first whaling season in 1911 to the island of South Georgia. He worked his last season whaling in 1916-17. He worked in the factory at the shore station in New Fortuna Bay. From the letters that he sent home to his family in Norway we gain a good insight of the everyday life of the whaling men. Nils possessed very good powers of observation and his letter are very descriptive. He describes seasickness, the special male orientated working environment of the whalers, their work and their time off including Christmas celebrations. The letters he wrote towards the end of the season show signs of homesickness and of the great expectations he had to the journey home to Norway. When Nils Andersen Skisaker gave up whaling he settled in Larvik and later moved to Sandefjord.

Accounts and descriptions of whaling activities at New Fortuna Bay are rare. A few "letters from whalers" were printed in Ostlandsposten (Larviks local newspaper). Therefore the letters written by Nils Andersen Skisaker are one of the very few sources of information about the everyday life of the whaling men at the shore stations. In 1989 Nils Andersen Skisaker’s daughter contacted the Whaling museum enabling us to take copies of the most interesting letters.

It was the beginning of October 1911 the transport ship "Ocean" was sailing through the English Channel, the weather was good but rookie Nils Andersen Skisaker was sea sick. Nearly all the first time sailors had no appetite and were sick on the trip over the North Sea. Nils wrote home that he was out of sorts on Monday with a headache, no appetite and was sick a couple of times, but after that he forced himself to eat some salted meat he felt much better.

Nils’s job was mess boy for three men, Forman Jensen, Head of equipment Olsen and Master bricklayer Ludvigsen. His duties were to fetch their food, lay the table, wash up and keep the mess clean and tidy. There were 4 meals a day whilst at sea 08:30,12:30, 16:00 and 19:30.

Nils describes the nights in the tropics as dark and cool with a light breeze on deck but of no use to him as he sits and sweats down in the ship listening to the droning of the engines.

How the wind blows!!

South Georgia has high pointed mountains with natural harbours one of which is Fortuna Bay formed like a huge sheltered lake from the sea. But how the wind can blow here! The houses are low and fastened down to the ground with rope but still shudder and shake in a storm. Any soil found here is unfertile and there are no trees just moss and grass. The mountains appear to have been formed by volcanic eruptions and there is an abundance of fresh water.


During the summer months a large barn was built to house the livestock in the winter. They kept cows, horses, pigs, hens and pigeons. Reindeer were also introduced into the wild on South Georgia by the whaling companies for an extra source of meat.

The shore station

Nils describes how the whale is processed:

"The whaling boats set out in the morning and return early the next day with their catch. The dead whales are attached to a buoy out in the bay. The flensers then fetched them to the flensing plane which is 80 metres long and 60 metres wide.

The wooden slip way slopes down to the beach and at the end nearest the sea a large bridge of metal plates stretches out into the water. When the dead whale reaches the bridge is it heaved up by double wires to the flensing plane. The first thing to do is to get rid of the louse there are thousand of them under small shells, this is so the flensing knives do not get ruined as soon as this is done strips of blubber are removed from the carcass. The blubber is then transported to a machine that looks something like a turnip cutter but larger. This cuts up the blubber into thin strips which then falls down into a type elevator which transports it up to the second floor to the boilers where it is tipped into the large cooking pots., when they are filled up steam is led in and the cooking process starts. The next day the oil is fed through a system of pipes to be stored in large containers. The oil is later drained into barrels which are weighed and stamped with the firms label and rolled out to be stored in the grounds. It is much the same process at the meat factory. Then we have the third part of the factory where the bones are sawed up there are 8 men employed here some cut and others split the bones into smaller pieces. When the meat and bones have been cooked enough they are put on a trolley and taken to the guano factory which is in production both day and night. Here the meat and bone are dried to guano. "

Christmas celebrations at New Fortuna Bay

Nils describes the Christmas celebrations at New Fortuna Bay with first class traditional Norwegian fare and a wee dram, a bottle was shared by five men. Afterwards the hall was cleared for dancing and festivities. He tells us how towards the end of the season the men looked forward to getting back home to Norway. The trip back was pleasant and for each day that passed and the nearer home they came the strife and hard work and smell of whale carcasses was erased from their minds. They could smell the fjords of Norway long before they came in sight.

He tells us that even though the working days in New Fortuna Bay were long and tough but there was also time for some fun. The whaling men entertained themselves once in a while with trips into the mountains and bird hunting. Sometimes they took a quick trip with a whale catcher to Grytviken where there were sporting activities, such as the football match:

New Fortuna Bay versus Grytviken

A sunny day in January 1914 there was a football match held in New Fortuna Bay between a team from Grytviken and a team from A/S Ocean. A Whaling man Hartvik Larsen wrote in Larviks local newspaper that the team from Grytviken consisted of Englishmen, Danes, Swedes and Norwegians and an impressive Irish player in defence. The team from Ocean was made up of nine solid built boys from Larvik and two Swedes. The Ocean team was superior and won by 9 goals to 2 they also won an away match at Grytviken three weeks later even though the referee was English and did not understand a word of Norwegian! After the match the festivities began with dancing. The newspaper reporter though it was a strange sight to see men dancing with men – the only solution to dancing down there with no females available!

Este sitio es publicado por Carlos Mey -  - Martínez - Argentina

Direccion de e-mail: histarmar@fibertel.com.ar