Christian Salvesen, a whaling company based in Leith, operated ships from a whaling station known as Leith Harbour on South Georgia. Surrounded by large numbers of Gentoo penguins, this place provided whalers with an abundant source of penguin eggs. These were collected as souvenirs and even used to make omelettes. The whalers also brought back the first live penguins to Edinburgh Zoo in 1914.

Gentoo penguin egg from Paradise Bay, South Georgia. Resting on cotton-wool in tin lid.

The long-tailed gentoo penguin is a penguin species in most closely related to the Adelie penguin and the chinstrap penguin. The first scientific description was made in 1781 by Johann Reinhold Forster with a reference point of the Falkland Islands. They call in a variety of ways, but the most frequently heard is a loud trumpeting which is emitted with its head thrown back.

This penguin egg is from a penguin brought by the Salvesen whalers from South Georgia.

Christian Salvesen, a whaling company based in Leith, operated ships from a whaling station known as Leith Harbour on South Georgia. Surrounded by large numbers of Gentoo penguins, this place provided whalers with an abundant source of penguin eggs. These were collected as souvenirs and even used to make omelettes. The whalers also brought back the first live penguins to Edinburgh Zoo in 1914.

South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) is a UK Overseas Territory, situated 800 miles SE of the Falkland Islands. The main island of South Georgia is approximately 170 km long and between 2 and 40 km wide and occupies an area of 3,755 km2, more than half of which is permanently ice covered. Mt Paget rises to 2,934 m and is the highest point in all UK mainland and territories. The South Sandwich Islands are a chain of eleven small volcanic islands stretching from 56-60oS, 350-500 miles SE of South Georgia. The South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Maritime Zone (200 nm from baselines) occupies in excess of 1,000,000 km2 of the Southern Ocean.

Trinity House

Trinity House and its remarkable historic collections give amazing insights into Leith’s celebrated maritime past. The present building was the Port of Leith headquarters of the Incorporation of Mariners and Shipmasters for nearly 200 years.

This charity was set up to support the needs of injured and retired seamen and their families. Its origins can be traced back to 1380, when it was granted the right to levy a tax known as prime gilt on goods imported into Leith.

Thomas Brown designed the elegant Georgian building that now stands on the Kirkgate. It was built in 1816 on the site of a former Trinity House and hospital dating from before 1550.

Read more on the history of Trinity House [PDF, 8MB]

Maritime treasure house

The layout and historic furnishings of Trinity House still have many unique features that emphasise its former maritime function.

The War Memorial Window designed by W.J.R. Cook in 1933 honours local merchant sailors who died in the First World War. It was rededicated in 1945 for those killed in the Second World War.

The ground floor has a grand entrance and inner hall, with a unique collection of chairs commissioned by the Incorporation from the Edinburgh cabinetmaker William Trotter. Off the hall is the Master’s Room, a cosy space with a fine collection of paintings showing Leith as a busy commercial port in the 1700s and 1800s.

The highlight of Trinity House is the Convening Room on the upper floor, where the Incorporation held meetings around the long mahogany table. Maritime subjects feature in the ceiling’s ornate plaster friezes, and the table now displays a fascinating variety of objects to do with shipping, navigation and the whaling industry.

On display in the room are:

  • navigational instruments
  • wartime charts
  • whaling harpoons
  • rare objects such as narwhal tusks
  • ship models – ranging from early whaling ships to modern merchant ships

Hung on the walls are portraits of famous mariners and former Masters of the Incorporation – some by the great Edinburgh artist Sir Henry Raeburn. Vasco da Gama Encountering the Spirit of the Storm, a huge oil painting by the Scottish artist David Scott, is also on display.

The vaults below the building, which date from the 1500s, once housed a school for young mariners.

 

Find out more about Trinity House

Details

Date Made
1955
Dimensions
60 x 80 x 70mm
Time Period
Modern
Property Information
Trinity House
Object Number
TRH580
Access Status
Display

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