South Georgia remembered
A recent commission saw me returning to one of my favourite parts of the world, the islands of South Georgia in the South Atlantic Ocean, specifically Grytviken whaling station in Cumberland Bay.
Sailing into Cumberland Bay is a breath-taking experience. Glaciers feed the bay, turning the waters milky turquoise, while dark green grass-clad slopes rise from the beaches and rocky shores populated by an abundance of seals and penguins. Steep, jagged mountains covered with snow rise above the bay while the grey-brown rotten shale scree-slopes crumble into gullies of luminous green moss while streams of icy, clear fresh water flow down the valleys towards the sea. The red flower heads of the prickly burr, Acaena, bob in swathes of vivid colour against the green grasses in the light breezes that can turn into impressive gales in a matter of hours.
A short walk around the bay from the King Edward Point research base, is Grytviken, the now derelict whaling station and home to the whaling museum housing historical relics from the days of whaling. The whaling station itself is full of enormous rusting chains, winches, generators, block and tackles, bone saws, cookers and boilers, all laying testimony to the butchery of thousands of whales. Eddies of wind now whistle through deserted streets which once belched with smoke and steam. I wanted to depict the idyllic nature of Grytviken on a tranquil sunny day. The endearing South Georgia Pintails wander contentedly amongst the tussac grass while a pair of Light Mantled Sooty Albatrosses soar gracefully across the bay in tandem flight, alongside the picturesque and painstakingly restored Norwegian church, weathered historical buildings and rusting vessels from the whaling days. Painting ‘South Georgia remembered ‘ brought back wonderful recollections of my own trip down south in 2009. I am looking forward to returning to that far-flung and spectacular part of the world in a few weeks time as part of a team undertaking fieldwork on the islands. It is a wonderful opportunity to savour, once again, the abundance of wildlife, breath-taking scenery and the fascinating human history of South Georgia.