Shackleton returned to South Georgia in 1922 en route to Antarctica once more. However, he died of a heart attack in Grytviken, another former whaling station, and was later buried in its little cemetery.
Situated just around the bay from South Georgia’s settlement at King Edward Point, Grytviken is the main landing for ships visiting the island, and as David explained: “It’s become a tradition for crews to stop at the cemetery first to raise a toast to ‘The Boss’.”
We carried on the tradition, knocking back rum as we gathered around the tribute-strewn grave. Some plastic roses and a dedication had been left by Shackleton’s granddaughter, who had visited in January 2005. She commented on his ‘persistence and determination’.
His character is also summed up by a quote on the back of his tombstone from his favourite poet, Robert Browning: ‘I hold that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize.'
There are further tributes to Shackleton in Grytviken’s pretty Norwegian church. Restored a few years ago, it is still used for services by some ships – there have even been marriages, the most recent being last Christmas.
From here it is a short walk to South Georgia’s museum, run by Tim and Pauline Carr, who are legends in the Southern Ocean. The museum may be small, but it must be one of the world’s most interesting, crammed full of exhibits on the island’s history and wildlife, as well as hosting South Georgia’s only retail outlet.
Pauline spotted some of us studying a photograph of Stromness, so familiar from the previous day’s walk. Shackleton made for the manager’s house on arrival there, and it is often pointed out in photographs. A bath had been removed from this house in an attempt to preserve it.
However, Pauline revealed that a Norwegian had recently found some old plans that showed the building that for years had been presumed to be the manager’s villa was yet to be built in 1916. As Pauline said: “The bath was the ‘Holy Relic’ of South Georgia. Now there are lots of red faces – it’s obviously not the right one!”