Salvesan was a Norwegian Whaling Magnate with strong British, and especially Scottish connections. As whale stocks declined due to overfishing in the North Atlantic, Salvesan was one of the first whalers to consider moving not just his ships to the South Atlantic, but the entire means of processing and canning meat. Initially he focussed on West Falkland to be a base of operations in 1907 but he quickly identified that South Georgia would be a far more profitable base to place his factories and whaling facilities.
Having got the blessing of the British authorities in the Falklands to establish themselves in the windswept island with the unbelievably harsh climate and freezing temperatures, he christened his new harbour by the name of where his Scottish operations were based, Leith.
Whilst still keeping his South Georgia factories going, he moved two factory ships down to the South Shetlands to act as another processing plant for his considerable fleet of whalers. By the time of his death in 1911, Salvesan's whaling activities were the the largest whaling concern int he world. For example, In 1911 his whalers caught and killed 2,350 whales and produced 66,510 barrels of whale oil.
Whale oil was used for burning in lamps, for lubrication, for soap, for the production of glycerine, and even for early varieties of margarine. It was extremely valuable during the First World War and the products were used extensively in the war effort. The disruption of the North Atlantic fishing and sealanes saw the Southern Atlantic operations busier than ever as the company's resources were moved southwards.
South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands | South Georgia and South Sandwich Individuals