In 1915, Antarctica was the center of the Heroic Age of Exploration, where intrepid adventurers like Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton strove to discover Antarctica's secrets. Less balleyhooed but just as rugged were those who worked the Antarctic Peninsula on whaling vessels, an arduous task and one of the most taxing jobs on the seas.
On Monday January 18th, 1915, Shackleton's famous ship the Endurance had just become beset in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea, an event that would later result in the crushing and abandonment of the ship. The story of Shackleton's expedition has become the stuff of legend, with a crew surviving and presumed lost in the Weddell Sea for nearly two years.
Meanwhile, 800 miles away on the Antarctic Peninsula the Governoren, a Norwegian whaling factory ship, was completing its season. The whaling factory ships, a large industry in the Antarctic at the time, were literally floating factories. They would hunt and harpoon whales and bring them aboard where they were flensed and lemmed (removing the blubber and seperating out the usable meat parts). These factory ships also carried the large boilers to turn the whale blubber into usable oil, and had huge tanks to hold the finished oil. In inhospitable locations like Antarctica where it wasn't often feasable to build factories on the land, the whaling factory ships brought it all with them.
So it was on Wednesday January 27th, 1915, nine days after Shackleton's ship had been locked in the ice, that the Governoren finished its whaling season, her tanks full of valuable whale oil to bring home to Norway. As was the custom at the end of a whaling tour, the crew had a party, happy for their successful mission and imminent journey home. As the exposed decks were working decks more suitable for flensing than dancing, the celebration was held belowdecks.
On this fateful day one of the lamps got knocked off a table, and the fire quickly grew out of control. The captain's first priority when his ship is on fire is to set her aground as quickly as possible so the crew can evacuate, and this is exactly what the captain did, settling her in Foyn Harbor, Enterprise Island. The full crew of 85 managed to escape the steel ship safely before she, completely full of whale oil, burned to complete ruin.
Ninty-four years later, the wreck still stands as a rusting testament to Antarctica's history, a reminder of the contrasts of time. The contrasts between Antarctica as a commercial resource to be exploited and a natural treausure to be preserved.
It was to the wreck of the Governoren that we set out to see after dinner. Leaving the ship at 11pm the sun was low in the sky, but by no means set! After such an eventful day we were happy to stay in the zodiacs, touring around the wreck and learning its history.
Reclaimed by nature, the ship also serves as a nesting ground to Arctic Terns, birds who migrate from pole to pole chasing the Summer with an annual migration longer than than any other animal on earth, and barely outdistancing the Governoren's journey from Norway to its final resting place in a secluded Antarctic bay.
As the sun drew lower, its path so horizontal as to skim the horizon more than set upon it, the light flowed in a golden hue that played incredibly with the blue water and ice, but that's another set of photos...
Read the next chapter: Day 2: Totally Tabular
Table of Contents:
Introduction: Telling the Story posted Jan 10, 2009
Day 0: Positioning posted Jan 12, 2009
Leaving, on a jet plane posted Jan 12, 2009
Day 1: The Herc posted Jan 15, 2009
Day 1: Penguino posted Jan 16, 2009
Day 2: Chicken posted Jan 17, 2009
Day 2: Leopard posted Jan 19, 2009
Day 2: Snow Day posted Jan 22, 2009
» Day 2: Shipwreck posted Jan 26, 2009
Day 2: Totally Tabular posted Jan 27, 2009
Day 3: Gentoo Cute posted Jan 29, 2009
Day 3: Lichen Shag Glacier posted Feb 3, 2009
Day 3: Palmer Station Visit posted Feb 9, 2009
Day 4: Icy Penguins posted Feb 11, 2009
Day 4: Adelie Awesome posted Feb 15, 2009
Day 4: Leopard Seal Attack posted Feb 17, 2009
Day 4: Kayak posted Feb 19, 2009
Day 4: Vernadsky Station Visit posted Feb 23, 2009
Day 4: Vernadsky Sunset posted Feb 25, 2009
Day 5: Antarctic Circle posted Feb 27, 2009
Day 5: Polar Plunge posted Mar 5, 2009
Day 5: Mouth of The Gullet posted Mar 13, 2009
Day 5: Ice Camping posted Mar 18, 2009
Day 6: Flamingos on Ice posted Mar 20, 2009
Day 6: Mountain Climbing posted Mar 24, 2009
Day 6: Ice Textures posted Mar 26, 2009
Day 6: Antarctic New Years posted Apr 2, 2009
Day 7: Crystal Sound Icebreaker posted Apr 9, 2009
Day 7: Abandoned Antarctica: Base W - Part 1 posted Apr 17, 2009
Day 7: Abandoned Antarctica: Base W - Part 2 posted Apr 21, 2009
Day 8: Bird Watching in the Fish Islands posted Apr 23, 2009
Day 8: Icee Day - Part 1 posted May 5, 2009
Day 8: Icee Day - Part 2 posted May 11, 2009
Day 9: Port Lockroy - Base A posted May 20, 2009
Bonus Chapter: Baby Penguins! posted May 21, 2009
Day 9: Antarctic Humpback Whales posted June 3, 2009
Day 9: Dallmann Butt Sliding posted June 11, 2009
Day 10: Birthday Whales posted June 23, 2009
Day 10: Hannah Point Part 1: The Birds posted July 15, 2009
Day 10: Hannah Point Part 2: Elephant Seals posted July 22, 2009
Day 10: Deception Island - Part 1: Walking on the Moon posted Dec 11, 2009
Day 10: Deception Island - Part 2: The Martian Chronicles of Oz posted Dec 15, 2009
Day 11: Emperor Penguins posted Jan 8, 2010
Day 12: Black and White and Pink All Over posted Aug 4, 2011
More chapters posted every few days...
View Larger Map