International Travel

This is the most remote place on Earth

This is the most remote place on Earth

One of the most remote places on Earth is covered in glaciers, mountains, and fjords. South Georgia sits 1,400 km away from its nearest neighbour, the Falkland Islands, and can only be accessed by sea.

The island is permanently covered in ice and spans less than 4,000 square kilometres.

Though only 15 to 30 people live on the island at any given time, South Georgia was once a vital part of the brutal whatling industry and was the whaling capital of the South Atlantic.

The island was first claimed for Great Britain by James Cook in 1775 and was noted for its abundant populations of seals.

By the 1900s, South Georgia’s seals had been hunted to the brink of extinction and whaling became the new money-making industry: whaling.

South Georgia’s first whaling station, Grytviken, in the island’s King Edward Cove has become the island’s main settlement, with a population mostly consisting of scientists and government officials.

Now, all that remains of the station are rusting towers, warehouses, power plants, and hulking blubber and bone cookers. 

The shore is lined with ships and boats in varying stages of collapse and the ground is covered in shards of whale bone.

One of the old whaling ships still remains, with its harpoon gun that helped it bring in as many as 14 whales in a single trip.

Initially, the whalers were primarily concerned with harvesting the blubber from their catches, but later regulatory changes forced them to use the whole animal.

The meat and bone-meal was sold as animal feed and fertiliser, but the real prize was whale oil.

“The best oils went into food products like margarine and ice cream,” said Finlay Raffle, a curator at the site’s museum. “The second grade went into soap and cosmetics, and the worst was used in industrial processes.”

Demand for the substance skyrocketed during World War One and Two, as it was a source of glycerol used in the manufacture of explosives and lubricants for rifles.

At the peak of its production, 450 men would work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week at Grytviken, where temperatures can drop below -10C.

Despite its history of bloodshed and its impact on whale populations, South Georgia has become an unlikely model of conservation.

The South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area, one of the world’s biggest marine reserves, now protects more than one million square kilometres of the surrounding waters.

Seal populations have since recovered significantly: the island is home to 98 percent of the world’s Antarctic fur seals and about 50 percent of its elephant seals.

The island also hosts 30 million breeding pairs of seabirds and four species of penguin.

Images: South Georgia Island / Instagram