A Whisky Toast to Ernest Shackleton’s Life, Grytviken.

Shackleton – a Man among Men

What an honour to stand next to the grave of the intrepid polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and toast his extraordinary life.

Shackleton, also called “The Boss”, was among the greatest explorers to ever walk on this earth. A great leader who inspired others to strive for greatness, while always putting the safety of his team first.

Ernest Shackleton and ill-fated "The Endurance" in 1914 - Antartica. Photo - Toronto Press. www.gypsyat60.com

Ernest Shackleton and his ship “The Endurance” – 1914

From humble beginnings in Ireland he made four epic voyages to the land of ice and snow – Antarctica – during his short life of 47 years. A life full of daring exploits and survival against impossible odds are the stuff of which legends are made.

A toast with Shackleton at Grytviken, South Georgia should be on everyone’s itinerary for an Antarctic trip. To stand next to this man’s grave and be enthralled at his daring and incredible polar expedition achievements is humbling to say the least.

Arrival at Grytviken

But… before the whisky toasts, our trusty ship, the “MS Ushuaia” needed to lower her zodiacs to transport 80 passengers to the shores of Grytviken, South Georgia.

Luck was with us weather wise, sunny and mild at 6 degrees. Quite opposite to the day before at Stromwest where we were met with sleet, galeforce winds and snow.

Sheltered harbour of Grytviken. South Georgia, Antarctica. www.gypsyat60.com

Sheltered harbour of Grytviken. (Photo credit Alek Komarnitsky – www.komar.org)

Grytviken was one of the major seal and whaling stations in the 1930s where approximately 1.3m whales were harpooned. The statistics are depressing and you are better off speaking to Mrs Google for more details of this horrible whale devastation.

The small settlement is now the administrative centre on South Georgia with a handful of permanent residents at a British Antarctic Survey Research Station.

But…as they say it’s now history and Grytviken is a really interesting little community to explore.

Ruins of an old Whaling Boat, GrytvikenGrytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica. www.gypsyat60.com

Whaling boat that had seen better days.

Somehow I got sidetracked on the way to the cemetery by taking so many photos of seals (a firm favourite), boat wrecks and abandoned machinery used for processing of whale blubber, meat etc.

Chains to drag whales to the boats at Grytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica. www.gypsyat60.com

Chains of Menace used to harpoon whales.

Tripping over umpteen times on massive whale bones scattered all around the foreshore didn’t help my progress to the cemetery either!

All this procrastination meant I was the last to arrive at Shackleton’s grave for a whisky (at 11.30am!). This meant I hadn’t heard we were supposed to wait until AFTER the quotes about Shackleton’s life had been read to everyone present BEFORE we drank the whisky.

Whisky Toast to Ernest Shackleton at the Whalers Cemetery, Grytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica. www.gypsyat60.com

Whisky Toast to Ernest Shackleton

So….when the toast was made to this truly heroic Antaractic explorer I had nothing left in my glass!

Plus we were supposed to save a bit of whisky to throw onto his grave out of respect. I immediately prayed for forgiveness from this intrepid polar pioneer and later bought a book on his life from the souvenir shop to catch up on what I’d missed. (SHACKLETON THE BOSS by Michael Smith.)

The Boss was laid to rest high on the hill at the Whaler’s Cemetery on 5 March 1922 with his head facing south towards his exploring ground of Antarctica. There are 63 other people buried there, all facing east which is a Christian custom carried down through the ages.

Overview of The Whalers Cemetery, Grytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica. Ernest Shacketon's grave is the large stone pillar at the back of cemetery. www.gypsyat60.com

The Whalers Cemetery showing Shackleton’s stone pillar headstone at the back.

The simple granite headstone is inscribed with a quotation from one of his favorite poets, Robert Browning, “I hold…that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize”.

Next to Shackleton’s grave the ashes are interred of Frank Wild with an inscription on the rough-hewn granite block that reads “Frank Wild 1873–1939, Shackleton’s right-hand man.”

Young fur seal at the Whalers Cemetery - unimpressed with the company. Grytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica.

Young fur seal at the Cemetery – apparently unimpressed with our company.

South Georgia Museum

Because I’d missed so much of Shackleton’s life by arriving at the cemetery late, the South Georgia Museum down the hill seemed the obvious choice to stop and gather more information on the explorer.

South Georgia Museum and displays. Chronicling the sagas experienced by Sir Ernest Shackleton and history of South Georgia. www.gypsyat60.com

South Georgia Museum and displays.

Here you will find the entire Shackleton chronicles which include:

  • Four intrepid polar expeditions
  • Stories of defeat and determination
  • Ships crushed with pack ice and mighty icebergs
  • Crossing the rocky mountains and glaciers mountains of South Georgia in freezing temperatures to get help for his men

This, together with stories and displays on the general life and history of South Georgia make for a well worth stop.

Norwegian Lutheran Church

Norwegian Lutheran Church, settlement of Grytviken, South Georgia. Sitting at the bottom of the Mighty South Georgian Mountains. Also called the Whalers Church. www.gypsyat60.com

Norwegian Lutheran Church, Grytviken

You can’t miss this pretty Grytviken church that is a standout at the base of the mighty and humbling mountains of St Georgia. Also known as the “Whalers Church” (part of the Church of Norway) it was built in 1913 and still has some church services but not on a regular basis.

Do you remember the animated Happy Feet movie made in 2006?   Well this little church with its cameo appearance was the background for one of the shooting days.

Moving On…

With the cold creeping back into our bones, it was time to zodiac our way back to the ship.

Back on board you stop and think of the successes this courageous explorer could have had in the world of technology today with access to:

  • Marine navigation systems
  • GPS receivers
  • Satellite phones
  • Gyro and magnetic compasses
  • Automatic track and electronic chart displays
  • Long range tracking system – and the list goes on.

Well it was then time for one more toast to:

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton CVO, OBE, FRGS

15 February 1874 (Ireland) – 5 January 1922 (Falkland Islands)

Next Stop – Salisbury Plains

The next exciting stop was to get up close and personal with the King Penguins at Salisbury Plains but that’s for another post.

What to take on an Antarctic visit:

Fact: It’s super important to keep your head, hands and feet warm at all times. These are the bits that lose heat quickly.

  • Wellington boots that come at least up to the knee. Otherwise when getting out of zodiacs the water will slosh into your boots!
  • Warm wind and water proof jacket and trousers – waterproof and breathable. These need to be large enough to fit thick woollen jumpers/clothing underneath. I bought a size larger– as much as my ego was bruised in doing this!  NB – My cheap trousers split after the third day and I was reduced to making the seams stronger with duct tape This didn’t work  so a garbage bag was raided from the kitchen to wear over the torn trousers like a skirt. Not the most attractive look!  Better to buy quality jackets and trousers)
  • Windproof warm gloves or mittens. (Mittens can be pulled over the warm gloves)
  • Warm scarf or neck warmer
  • 2 pairs of long woollen underwear, tops and bottoms – preferably Merino 
  • 3 pairs of woollen socks
  • 3 long sleeve tops, shirts.
  • Sunscreen and lip salve. You can get burnt very easily with the reflection off the snow on a sunny day.

This is the outdoor list. When indoors your usual casual clothes are all you need, e.g. on the ship.

Your Own Antarctic Expedition

So…when are you booking your own Antarctic Expedition for a toast to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s life? Jo Van Os Tours  and Natural Habitat Adventures  can be recommended from first hand experiences!

 

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Fat Tire Bike - asked at the Louvre, Paris with sunset approaching.

Fat Tire Bike

We all rode bikes as kids right?  So, it’s a bit like breathing you never forget how. Although if you haven’t ridden for a while, a quick practice run before cycling through Paris is recommended – just to make sure your coordination and balance is on track.

This night bike ride is designed for all fitness levels and cycling through Paris at sunset certainly beats looking out of a bus window!

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Discover Singapore the RIDE way – on two wheels!

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Quick stop on bike tour, Singapore, at the Helix Bridge. www.gypsyat60.com

The Helix Bridge

Cycling in Singapore

My tip is to go on a morning tour because it rains nearly every afternoon all year round.   Also, the upside of cycling in a small group with a guide is the sharing of local knowledge and current interest topics.   A brochure has its limits!

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The Magic Tree at Scarborough Beach, Queensland

Calling all parents and grandparents who have little people interested in magic…

In my own backyard of Scarborough Beach, Moreton Bay Region– there’s a magic tree.  This comes in the shape of an ancient Norfolk Pine that is well  is worth a visit with your little people.

Reliable chatter has it Gollum and his team of Hobbits have taken up residence behind a medieval door in the base of the ancient tree!

Magic Tree (Home to Lord Gollum and his Hobbits) Scarborough Beach, Moreton Bay Region, Queensland, Australia.www.gypsyat60.comThis is a Magic Tree! 

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Snapshot of Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), Vietnam

Snapshot – Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), Vietnam

Office of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee.

OK, so this post is written through the eyes of a boomer on a cruise ship meaning you only get a thumbnail sketch of places visited.   Having said that, it was ample time to get a taste of Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon), Vietnam and its culture.

With a great guide called “Foo” and feeling like millionaires (our wallets were loaded with 2,700,000 Dong (the local currency equal to $US100) we headed off to explore the city.

NB – Foo also doubled as the driver’s assistant. His task was to direct traffic so the bus could get through roads clogged with motorbikes!

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Cycling the Ancient Appian Way in Rome

Riding along the ancient Appian Way where the stones weren't so rough as other parts of the 2,300 road. www.gypsyat60.com

Riding along the ancient Appian Way – stones not so rough on this stretch.

Just for one day we were 19th century time-travellers exploring the beauty of ancient Appian Way on push bikes away from the city mayhem.

After five intense, but exciting, sight-seeing days in Rome a cycle along the 2,300 year old cobblestones of the Appian Way was a welcome diversion to clear the cobwebs away.

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Gypsy’s A-Z of Travel Tips

Gypsy’s A-Z of Top Travel Tips 

Donkeys in Nepal carrying loads for people on treks. www.gypsyat60.com

Top Travel Tip – travel light otherwise you’ll feel like a packhorse.

“Never look at your passport photo,  because you’ll feel too ill to travel”.

A

AIRPORT CAROSEL (Top Travel Tip)

Advice given by an Osteopath Surgeon – “beware of airport carousels”.  In other words, don’t just wrench your suitcase off the conveyor belt and pull a tendon off the bone!  The bags will come around again if you miss them the first time.

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Looking up to St John's Fort from Kotor Town, Montenegro. There are 1,350 odd shaped steps to climb which takes about 2 hours round trip. www.typsyat60.com

Medieval wall climb – from Kotor town up to St John’s Fort. 

If ever you are lucky enough to be on a Mediterranean cruise that calls into the small medieval city of Kotor, Montenegro, a climb up to the old St John’s Fort (aka Castle of San Giovanni) is a must.  For two reasons – the incredibly outstanding views and much needed exercise after being on the ship!  (I call this a climb, but other say it’s a “huff and puff” hike…only one way for you to find out!)

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