In this latest installment of our popular Ghost Towns and Abandoned Cities of the World series, we’ve amended the title to reflect that there aren’t any icy cities in Antarctica – unless you believe in Atlantis, that is! There are, however, freezing former military bases and abandoned whaling stations, with eight of the most impressive ones featured in this article.
Grytviken, South Georgia Island
Grytviken, meaning “The Pot Cove”, was the main settlement on the British territory of South Georgia, and certainly the best preserved. It was established in 1904 by the Norwegian sea captain Carl Anton Larsen as a whaling station for the Argentine Fishing Company, and boasts the final resting place of Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton. Nowadays Grytviken, with its rusting whale oil processing plants and abandoned ships, is a popular tourist destination, assuming you can get there!
Leith Harbour, South Georgia Island
It once boasted a hospital, library, cinema, and a narrow gauge railway, and even today the ruins of Leith Harbour are substantial. Also known as Port Leith, the deserted whaling station on the northeast coast of South Georgia was established and operated by Christian Salvesen Ltd, Edinburgh from 1909 to 1965. The largest of seven whaling stations near the mouth of Stromness Bay, Leith Harbour accomodated an Argentine detachment during the Falklands War, which surrendered to British forces on April 25, 1982.
Stromness, South Georgia Island
Grytviken cemetery may be the custodian of Shackleton’s body, but Stromness was where the famed explorer was reunited with “civilization” after the epic rescue journey following the loss of his ship, The Endurance, in 1915. Now just another deserted whaling station on the northern coast of the island, named after the town on Orkney, UK, Stromness began as a “floating factory” in 1907. The buildings were contructed in 1912, with the whaling station converted into a ship repair yard in 1931 and finally abandoned in 1961.
Whalers Bay, Deception Island
Britain, Argentina, Norway and Chile have all established bases on Deception Island over the years, and today the icy landmass is home to the oldest ghost town in Antarctica. A joint Norwegian-Chilean whaling company began using the shelter of Whalers Bay for a factory ship called the Gobernador Bories, and less than a decade later 13 ships were based there. The British established a permanent base (top) on Deception Island in 1944 after Argentina contested its sovereignty, but this was abandoned after the volcanic eruptions of the late 1960s. Today the island’s permanent population is zero.
Abanadoned Bases and Research Stations
In addition to abandoned whaling stations, Antarctica has numerous deserted military and research bases, mostly on the Antarctic Peninsula where the climate is most mild. From the top is a former British research station on Horseshoe Island, British “Base E” on Stonington Island, an abandoned Argentine facility and finally, a colourful former Chilean station in Paradise Bay. If you enjoyed this article, don’t miss Isolated Settlements at the Ends of the Earth.
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