Compania Argentina de Pesca collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of the archive of the whaling and sealing company

Administrative / Biographical History

The Compania Argentina de Pesca was founded by Carl Anton Larsen and for over 60 years operated on South Georgia. Having failed to interest Norwegian or British entrepreneurs in possibilities for whaling from South Georgia, Larsen sailed south as master of Antarctic, (expedition ship of the Swedish South Polar Expedition, 1901-1904). Following the loss of Antarctic and rescue by the Argentine Navy, Larsen arrived in Buenos Aires, where he took the opportunity to again raise the question of whaling on South Georgia. Three foreign residents, Norwegian P. Christophersen, German-American H. H. Schlieper and Swede E. Tornquist combined to form the Compania Argentina de Pesca Sociedad Anonima, registered in Buenos Aires on 29 February 1904.

Larsen returned to Sandefjord, Norway to buy the equipment for the whaling station, shipping it out in the transport Louise and steam whale-catcher Fortuna. The ships arrived at Grytviken on 16 November 1904. Work began immediately on the prefabricated station, the first whale, a humpback, was harpooned close by on 22 December, and processed two days later. Taking mainly humpback whales, the station flourished and returned substantial profits from its first season onward.

The Government of the Falkland Islands had not been informed of their intentions and not knowing of their operations, the Government leased the island to a Chilean-based company, the South Georgia Exploration Co. in 1905. This company intended to farm cattle and sheep, explore for minerals and take seals for oil. Representatives arrived in Grytviken in August 1905 to find the Compania Argentina de Pesca already in possession. Matters were settled amicably: the Argentine Compania applied for and received a government lease that, regulated its position and made it liable to taxation and controls. The Chilean company, never more than speculative, faded from the scene: its rights were eventually bought by another whaling enterprise. Several other companies opened whaling stations or moored factory ships in South Georgia's sheltered harbours, introducing strong competition for generous but finite local stocks of whales. Catchers were soon travelling to more distant feeding grounds to bring in a wider variety of species, including right whales and rorquals.

Employing a mixture of Norwegian, British and Argentine workers, with fortunes that fluctuated from season to season, the Compania Argentina de Pesca operated its station continuously through two world wars and several cycles of industrial depression. It finally succumbed in 1965 when Grytviken, the first station to be established on South Georgia, became the last to close.


The collection is fully catalogued

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events by Robert Keith Headland (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034 and Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans ed. Bernard Stonehouse, John Wiley & Sons Chichester (2002) ISBN 0471986658 SPRI Library (7)

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible