The tumultous human history of South Georgia began with the visit of Captain Cook in 1775, when his reports of the numbers of seals and whales on and around the island attracted the attention of British and American industrialists, eager to profit from what seemed to be an endless harvest of both mammals.
For some 200 years the island of South Georgia hosted first a sealing and then a whaling industry that ended in the mid 1960s. Scientists first based themselves on the island in 1882; today there are two permanent research stations manned by British Antarctic Survey staff.
In 1916 Sir Ernest Shackleton famously crossed the island to alert the world of the plight of his ill-fated expedition. He subsequently died there in 1922 and is buried on the island in the cemetery at Grytviken. In 1982 war came to the island with the Argentine invasion. Afterwards a military garrison remained until it was withdrawn in 2001. The South Georgia Museum at Grytviken was established in 1992 in the whaling manager’s villa. Today it provides fine exhibits that display the island’s environmental and historical heritage.
Read more about human activity on the island and our heritage projects in this section.
Some other sections related to South Georgia heritage that may interest you are: