December 2013 marked the centenary of the opening of the Whalers’ Church at Grytviken. A special commemorative service took place on Christmas Day 2013, with a congregation including members of Oyas Venner (Norway’s Friends of South Georgia) who arrived on the cruise ship Fram as part of a voyage to celebrate the church’s anniversary.
Extract from the South Georgia Museum booklet by Robert Burton and Elsa Davidson
“The Whalers’ Church is a typical Norwegian timber church. It was commissioned, and largely financed, by CA Larsen. It was designed by his architect son-in-law, prefabricated in Strømmen, Norway, and erected by the station workers in their spare time. The two bells in the steeple rung out on Christmas Eve 1913. On the following day, Solveig Jacobsen, granddaughter of CA Larsen, was baptised by the pastor Kristen Løken.
The pastor had arrived at Grytviken 18 months earlier as ‘priest and lecturer’. He left in 1914 and three more ministers were in residence for short periods until 1931. Løken wrote that ‘religious life does not wax strong amongst the whalers and left much to be desired’. The library in the north transept was popular but the church was used a food store, cinema and concert hall. The church had to be cleared before the coffin of Sir Ernest Shackleton could lie in state. The funeral service was held in the church before the coffin was carried to the cemetery for burial.
The church is still used for services, usually at Christmas, by passengers from cruise ships and the crews of naval ships. It is also the repository for memorials, to CA Larsen, Shackleton and others linked to South Georgia.”