Last year the Salvesen Collection, which has been in the possession of the University since 1969, was given permission to make the images publically available online for the first time. The collection description tells us that ‘the history of the firm of Christian Salvesen goes back to 1851 when Christian Salvesen arrived in Leith and set up in business as a ship owner and broker. Two years later he joined the Edinburgh merchant George Vair Turnbull, continuing in partnership with him until he went solo in 1872. Three of his sons, Thomas, Frederick and Theodor (http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/we94g6) joined him in the business; the fourth, Edward, preferred a legal career which began with a law degree from the University of Edinburgh, and which culminated in his elevation to the College of Justice and the Bench as The Hon. Lord Salvesen (1857-1942)’.
Our collection of photographs and papers is largely about the company’s whaling concerns in South Georgia. So far only a small proportion of the photographs have been digitised- around 192, however they cover a wide range from landscapes and wildlife to the people and life at the Leith Harbour base in South Georgia .
Many of the images were digitised as an order for climatologists interested in comparing glaciers at the beginning of the 20th Century with their current state, http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/1co9ui. Although some are faded and damaged, they still convey the awe inspiring nature of the Islands http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/d9e4lj
Perhaps the most touching images are of the hardy people who worked in this cold and remote outpost http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/0q75b4.
From the light hearted shots of sledging http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/c6e03o and football http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/bs1r73 (I love that this photo came from an envelope entitled ‘Penguins and Social Life’), to coping with the extreme weather encountered only a little to the north of Antarctica. While some of the snow fall photos have an element of humour to them, like “The Old Powerhouse surrounded in 6″ of snow, had to be removed to fire the chimney, Dec 10/12/18” – remember that December is summer for South Georgia http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/56h599 .
Others are far more shocking. The season of 1929-30 appears to have been one of the worst- an old news clipping shows the damage to one of the giant vats in the harbour, a note with the photo reads “Power of the Wind. Oil tank in Leith Harbour pressed together by the wind. I saw it happen” http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/rm184k . In the same season an avalanche hit the base with devastating consequences. This blurred and grainy photograph shows the wreckage of the Foundry http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/zysa4o and the next reveals the human cost http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/f8akdg
For more than 50 years the Leith Station battled both the elements and tough working conditions (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Georgia_and_the_South_Sandwich_Islands ) surviving avalanches and fires http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/9e14c2 .
Throughout it all they documented their lives, challenges and environment. Although whaling has thankfully had its day, I’m glad they have left this wonderful resource for us all http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/5dhlh7
Susan Pettigrew, Photographer