The Fate of Louise: a Maine-built ‘down-easter’ at Grytviken Harbor, South Georgia Island

By Charles Lagerbom, published August 2012


Located in a tiny harbour of Cumberland Bay, South Georgia Island is one of the last remaining examples of a Maine-built ‘down-easter’. The barque, burnt to the waterline with one of her steel masts lying haphazardly across her remains, is what is left of the Louise. While not much remains now, Louise was one of the first vessels involved in commercial whaling in the Antarctic, but her history prior to that venture was noteworthy. She participated in the American cotton trade, survived numerous trans-Atlantic crossings and difficult Cape Horn passages, suffered a near-fatal and far-reaching mid-channel collision, toiled for years in the Baltic timber trade and witnessed a South American naval war. All this before she was selected for her South Georgia Island commercial whaling adventure, but it is the latter that makes Louise a special vessel, worthy of record and some form of historic preservation. This article relates her colourful history and makes a case that she should be duly recognized and possibly preserved for her role in the establishment of commercial whaling in the Antarctic. It has however, already been recommended that her construction and history be recorded, an achievable prospect.

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Filed under: Atlantic | Other (Twentieth C) | Other (Nineteenth C)
Subjects include: Historic Vessels, Museums & Restoration | Merchant Marines | Whaling & Fishing

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