Godthul: Key information

  • Historic whaling depot with abandoned boats and a beach littered with whale bones
  • Home to a large gentoo penguin colony
  • Good hiking above the beach to a lake and scenic viewpoint
  • Latitude 54°18'S, Longitude 36°17'W

Explore Godthul with Swoop

About Godthul

Tourists in red jackets walk in grass surrounded the abandoned wooden boat and detritus of the whaling depot of Godthul on South Georgia island. Their cruise ship is in the bay in the distance.

Exploring the traces of South Georgia's whaling days at Godthul

The name Godthul means 'good cove' in Norwegian, and visitors today are liable to agree, even as they come in more benign circumstances than the sealers and whales who gave the bay its name.

Godthul is a popular place to call for its lively gentoo penguin colony, but also for being one of the few spots on South Georgia where you can truly connect with the island's whaling history. There was never a station here, but the bay served as a supply depot for a floating factory ship that moored here from 1908. In those early days of whaling carcasses were simply dumped after being stripped of their blubber, which is why Godthul's beaches are so littered with washed up bones.

There is a ruined hut here, a depot of rusting barrels and several small wooden vessels called waterboats that would have provided water to the steam-powered factory ship. 

There is excellent walking from above the whaling ruins towards a body of water called Echo Lake with its waterfall backdrop and nesting gentoos, or steeply uphill to the summit of the hill, which has views on either side to Godthul or to Horseshoe Bay on the eastern side of the point.

Wildlife at Godthul

The head of a gentoo penguin is just visible amid the thick grass of Godthul on South Georgia island.

A gentoo penguin hiding in the tussock at Godthul

Godthul is home to a colony of several hundred pairs of gentoo penguins, who nest in the tussac grass. There is the typical sprinkling of elephant seals and fur seals on the beach, but here it's the numbers of gentoos that make choosing a landing spot a careful decision for guides. King penguins are often present on the beach but do not breed here.

Climbing up from the beach, the tussac hosts the nests of southern and northern giant petrels and the burrows of white-chinned petrels, while the steeper slopes facing to sea make the ideal nesting spot for light-mantled albatross. Other confirmed breeders here include brown skuas, Antarctic terns, snowy sheathbills and South Georgia pintails.

Visitor guidelines for Godthul

All visits to Godthul must be made in accordance with the site visitor management plan for the site produced by the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands.

For safety reasons it is forbidden to enter the immediate whaling depot area including its huts and the old barrel storage area. Visitors may approach around the abandoned boats, but historic artefacts must not be disturbed in any way. This includes the whale bones on the beach that are an integral feature of the site.

If attempting the hill walk, follow the path marked by your guides: do not free roam. One path from the beach above the depot ruins follows a stream bed that is a popular highway for gentoo penguins: if birds are present choose another route.

NOTE: Ship itineraries and visits to specific landing sites in South Georgia can never be guaranteed. Plans can change as fast as the polar weather: decisions on which locations to visit are always made on the day by the ship's captain and expedition leader.

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