South Georgia

1. Grytviken at South Georgia, whaling station 1989

Bha mi riamh uabhasach measail air  ’S truagh nach do dh’fhuirich mi tioram air tìr,  òran a sgrìobh Gàidheal a bha air fhasgadh air bàta-muc, ag obair a-mach à South Georgia. Bha an t-airgead math, ach bha a’ bheatha cruaidh, fada air falbh bho chàirdean, bhon Ghàidhealtachd agus bho shìobhaltachd fad mòran mhìosan.  Bidh mi chaoidh a’ smaoineachadh air an luchd-obrach ola san linn againn fhìn nuair a chluinneas mi an t-òran sin, agus iomadh Gàidheal san aon suidheachadh.

Bha mi riamh airson South Georgia a lorg air a’ mhapa agus chaidh agam air mu dheireadh thall.  ‘S e eilean gu math iomallach, iarghalta a th’ ann, eadar na Falklands agus Antarctica, gun shluagh bunaidh idir. Thug Captain Cook an t-ainm air, airson Rìgh Sheòrais, ann an 1775, agus thagair esan an t-eilean, agus na South Sandwich Islands faisg air, airson an Rìoghachd Aonaichte – rud a bha na fhactar ann an Cogadh nam Falklands.  Thòisich sealg nan ròn an sin beagan às dèidh sin, agus bho thoiseach na ficheadamh linn deug a-mach b’ e na mucan-mara a bha na bu chudromaiche. Cha do mhair seo fada nas motha, dìreach gus na ficheadan, agus tha aithrisean uabhasach ann mun deidhinn:  The whaling stations’ tryworks were unpleasant and dangerous places to work. One was called “a charnel house boiling wholesale in vaseline” by an early 20th-century visitor. Its “putrid vapors [resembled] the pong of bad fish, manure, and a tanning works mixed together .“(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Georgia_and_the_South_Sandwich_Islands )

 Is beag an t- iongnadh nach do chord a’ bheatha sin ris a’ bhalach anns an òran.

Tha stèiseanan sealg nam mucan-mara anns an eilean dùinte a-nis, agus na prìomh stèiseanan (Stromness agus Grytviken) nan taighean-tasgaidh san latha an-diugh, ach tha buidhnean-rannsachaidh agus luchd-tèarainteachd ann fhathast. Chaochail Shackleton an-sin ann an 1922 agus chaidh adhlacadh ann an Grytviken.

  • Tha an t-òran fhèin ri leughadh nas ìsle, agus ri chluinntinn tro cheangal ri clàradh YouTube (Artair Cormaig).
  • Tha ceangal ann cuideachd ri cruinneachadh dhealban tarraingeach.

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2. Whaling and Sealing Ships at Grytviken, South Georgia

I always liked the song ‘S truagh nach do dh’fhuirich mi tioram air tìr – It’s pity I didn’t stay on dry land – a song written by a Highlander who hired on a whaling ship working out of South Georgia. The money was good but the life was hard, far away from friends, the Highlands and civilisation for months on end.  I’m always reminded of the oil workers in our own times when I hear that song, with many a Highlander in the same situation.

I always meant to look for South Georgia on a map, and have finally got round to it. It’s a pretty isolated, inhospitable island between the Falklands and Antarctica, without any native inhabitants. Captain Cook named it after King George in 1775 and claimed it, along with the nearby South Sandwich islands, for the UK, which later was a factor in the Falklands War. Seal-hunting began shortly afterwards, then whaling became more important from the beginning of the 20th century. This didn’t last long either, just into the twenties, and there are horrific reports about it: The whaling stations’ tryworks were unpleasant and dangerous places to work. One was called “a charnel house boiling wholesale in vaseline” by an early 20th-century visitor. Its “putrid vapors [resembled] the pong of bad fish, manure, and a tanning works mixed together (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Georgia_and_the_South_Sandwich_Islands )

Small wonder the lad in the song wasn’t too enamoured of the life there.

The whaling stations on the island are closed now, and the main stations (Stromness and Grytviken) are now museums, but there are research groups and security staff there still. Shackleton died there in 1922 and was buried in Grytviken.

  • Here’s the song, followed by a link to the recording by Arthur Cormack, and another link to impressive pictures of the whaling station at Grytviken:

 

 ‘S truagh na do dh’fhuirich mi tioram air tìr

‘S truagh nach do dh’fhuirich mi tioram air tìr,
‘N fhìrinn a th’ agam nach maraiche mi,
‘S truagh nach do dh’fhuirich mi tioram air tìr,
Rim mhaireann cha till mise sheòladh.

Ruith na muic-mhara ri gailleann sa chuan,
Mo mheòirean air reothadh a dh’aindeoin a bhith cruaidh,
B’ fheàrr a bhith ‘n-ceartuair air acair air Chluaidh,
Na bhith dìreadh nan crann an South Georgia.

Dìle bhon t-sneachd ‘s tu gun fhasgadh on fhuachd,
D’ aodann ga sgailceadh le fras bho gach stuagh,
‘N t-airgead am pailteas ‘s gun dòigh a chur bhuat,
‘S e sìor losgadh toll ann ad phòca.

Nuair gheibh sinn fòrladh ‘s nuair ruigeas sinn tràigh,
Falbhaidh an òinseach-sa còmhla ri càch,
Chosg mi de dh’airgead air cunntair a’ bhàr,
A cheannaicheadh trì taighean-òsta.

(Le Dòmhnall Iain Mac A’ Mhaoilein)

It’s a pity I didn’t stay on dry land

It’s the truth that I’m no sailor

It’s a pity I didn’t stay on dry land

As long as I live I won’t return to sailing.

 

Chasing the whales in a storm at sea

My fingers frozen despite their toughness

It would be better now to be at anchor in the Clyde

Than climbing the masts in South Georgia.

 

Heavy snow showers and you’re without a shelter from the cold

Your face slapped with a shower from every wave

Plenty of money with nowhere to spend it

And it forever burning a hole in your pocket.

 

When we get leave and we reach the shore

This idiot will go along with the rest

I’ve spent enough money at the bar

To buy three hotels.

 

Agus seo an t-òran air a sheinn le Artair Cormaig / the song sung by Arthur Cormack.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A_LvyCgWxI

 

Seo dealbhan drùidhteach den stèisean / Impressive images of the abandoned whaling station at Grytviken:

http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2010/01/abandoned-antarctica-south-georgia-island/

 

Agus dealbh no dhà eile / and a couple of further pictures.

Photo credits, all Creative Commons:

  1. Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute, Creative Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1989_Grytvikken_hg.jpg
  2. By Liam Quinn from Canada [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0 )], via Wikimedia Commons
  3. By Liam Quinn from Canada (Replica of Shackleton’s “James Caird” in Grytviken) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  4. By Geoff3Cae, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26612635