Norwegian Lutheran Church (Grytviken)

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Norwegian Lutheran Church
Grytviken church.jpg
The Church in Grytviken, in 2004
LocationGrytviken, South Georgia
Flag of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.svg South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Norwegian Lutheran Church (Whaler's Church) in Grytviken
DenominationChurch of Norway (Lutheran)
DedicationDecember 25, 1913
Priest(s)Rev. Kristen Løken (1885–1975) 1913–1914
Church c. 1915

Grytviken Church, also known as the Whalers Church, and as the Norwegian Lutheran Church, was built in 1913 in Grytviken, South Georgia. The church was part of the Church of Norway for a century from 1913 to 2013. It was formally handed over to the United Kingdom in 2013, and is now part of the Anglican Communion Diocese of the Falkland Islands.[1]

The church had a cameo appearance in the 2006 animated film Happy Feet.

History and architecture[edit]

The Neo-Gothic church was pre-built in Norway and erected in Grytviken by whalers led by Carl Anton Larsen around 1912–1913 and consecrated on Christmas Day 1913. The church consists of a single nave leading to a small altar. A small library is attached to the side near the altar.[2] Inside, worshippers (and now visitors) are seated on long wood benches. The floor's dark wood planks contrast with the white walls and ceiling.

The church, one of the most southern churches on earth, was consecrated on Christmas Day in 1913. In 1922, a funeral service for Sir Ernest Shackleton was conducted in this church before his burial amongst 64 others in the church cemetery.[3] The cemetery, located approximately 700 metres (2,300 ft) to the south on the other end of Grytviken Harbour, also holds empty graves for lost whalers at sea.[4]


The church was led by Kristen Løken, from 1913 to 1914. Løken was born in 1885 in Lillehammer and was made Pastor of South Georgia and arrived in 1912 to take his post. He was responsible for supervising the building of the church building as well. Løken left his church in 1914 and was the only pastor for this church. Løken died in 1975.

Grytviken Cemetery[edit]

The Grytviken Cemetery, associated with the church, is located about 700 metres (2,300 ft) away to the south. It predates the church, first accepting whalers' graves before 1902. It holds 64 graves, including nine victims of a 1912 typhoid epidemic, Ernest Shackleton (1874–1922), the ashes of fellow polar explorer Frank Wild (1873–1939) which were interred in 2011, and Félix Artuso, an Argentinian submarine officer who was killed in the 1982 British recapture of South Georgia from Argentina.[5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Restoration and maintenance[edit]

Church Interior in 2011
Model of church on display at Sandefjord Museum in Norway.

In April 1982, during the invasion of South Georgia by Argentinian military forces, members of a British Antarctic Survey team were invited by British marines to take shelter in the church.[10]

After years of abandonment and weathering the harsh elements of the region (the roof was damaged in 1994), the church was renovated by the keepers of South Georgia Museum and volunteers in 1996-1998, and now serves for occasional church services and marriage ceremonies.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Restored church near Antarctica holds 'first service in its 105-year history'". London: The Church Times. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Endurance (by Caroline Alexander. London: Bloomsbury. 1998)
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2010-09-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Pat Lurcock. "Cemeteries of South Georgia: Grytviken Cemetery". (see here for Wild Island website info including author credit])
  6. ^ Ernest Shackleton's grave, at Wild Island website
  7. ^ Frank Wild's grave, at Wild Island website
  8. ^ Marine killed Argentinian in Falklands war blunder
  9. ^ Félix Artuso's grave Archived 2014-01-06 at the Wayback Machine, at Wild Island website
  10. ^ Freedman, Lawrence (2005). The Official History of the Falklands Campaign: The origins of the Falklands war. Routledge. pp. 13–14. ISBN 0-7146-5206-7.
  11. ^ "Grytviken Church (Whalers Church)". Wondermondo.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°16′48″S 36°30′37″W / 54.28000°S 36.51028°W / -54.28000; -36.51028