Jim Reisert: Travel

South Georgia

 
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2009 Antarctic Cruise - South Georgia

We made six landings at South Georgia.


Elsehul

Thursday, January 29 - a.m.

This is the first place we saw the Antarctic Fur Seal, Elephant Seal and King Penguin. We also saw gentoo and chinstrap penguins. There were too many fur seals on the beach to land, so we took a Zodiac cruise around the shore instead.


Salisbury Plains

Thursday, January 29 - p.m.

This was our first landing in South Georgia, and a chance to wander among the many King Penguins and Antarctic Fur Seals. There were many newborn seals (2-3 months old), or "dinky toys" as our expedition leader called them. They were not shy about coming right up to you, if you sat still. The adults were a little crankier, and would shout if you got too close.

We even saw one adult who still was incubating an egg.


Prion Island

Friday, January 30 - a.m.

Here we had an early-morning (before breakfast) landing. Prion Island is one of the only places you can see nesting wandering albatross. They're huge and awkward, having a wingspan of over 3 meters (10 feet). We saw about a half-dozen sitting on their nests.


Stromness

Friday, January 30 - p.m.

Stromness is the site of an old whaling station. It's significant in that Earnest Shackleton led five other men across the island to this destination on a quest to rescue their crew/shipmates who had been stranded on Elephant Island. Some of the other passengers recreated the last part of this hike.

This is the only place we saw reindeer! Reindeer were introduced 70 years ago to the Stromness Bay area on the subantarctic island of South Georgia, and the herd is still surviving. They certainly seemed healthy, if out-of-place.

It was very warm - we were told as high as 19C (about 66 deg. F). I had removed my jacket and waterproof pants, so was walking around in jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. We found a small group of gentoo penguin youngsters, who were all panting with their beaks open because it was so hot.

We also saw a gruesome site. A skua (scavenger bird) attacked and killed a young adult gentoo. The penguin was swimming, and the skua landed on top of it and tried to drown it. The penguin tried to escape onto the shore, but each time, the skua resumed the attack. Two adult gentoo watched nearby, one of them got in the skua's face a couple of times, but was unable to fend off the attacker. The gentoo finally gave out, and another skua joined in the meal. The whole attack took 10-15 minutes, it was not quick by any means.


St. Andrew's Bay

Saturday, January 31 - a.m.

A colony of approximately 3/4 million King Penguins live here. The view was at least 180 degrees wide. You can't imagine the sound or the smell. They were in all stages of growth - adults, molting adults, chicks, molting chicks.


Grytviken

Saturday, January 31 - p.m.

Grytviken ("Pot Cove") is the site of an old whaling station. It has undergone massive cleanup (removal of asbestos, etc.) so it's now safe to walk around what's left. There are whalebones scattered about. This is where you can find the South Georgia Museum (and gift shop). There is also the Whaler's Church and the cemetery where the great explorer Earnest Shackleton is buried. Finally, the British Antarctic Survey has a research station at King Edward Point. This is the only place besides Stanley where we saw a motor vehicle. One of the people from the station drove his truck to join us at the cemetery (see below).

Exploring the grounds is more than a little creepy, it's like visiting a death camp for whales.

At the end of our visit (6 p.m.), we gathered at the cemetery, where Earnest's cousin Jonathan Shackleton lead us in a toast of Irish whiskey to "The Boss" as Earnest was known.


Drygalski Fjord

Sunday, February 1- a.m.

The Ocean Nova travelled through the fjord, up to the Risting Glacier

Cape petrels, snow petrels, Antarctic terns, gentoo penguins.


Cooper Bay

Sunday, February 1 - p.m.

Steep hike up to see a Macaroni penguin colony.

 

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