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Falkland Islands

South Georgia - Part 2

Navigating along the Northern Coast

semi-overcast 7 °C
View The Three A´s on Taffski's travel map.

We'd arrived in Prince Olaf Harbour the previous evening and Steph and I had agreed to do harbor watch that morning from 4 to 8am.

We awoke early and found that it was still foggy and dark. The Seals and Penguins were howling and squawking and as the morning progressed and the sun began to rise out of the gloom the shoreline began to appear and in the half morning light the remnants of a large whaling station came slowly into view.

Straight out of some old film or some ghost story... the old whaling station was virtually entirely in tact and combined with it's history, rusty buildings and eerie howling going on around us... this place is perhaps one of the closest places I've ever been too where I could believe that their would be the odd ghost or two ;)

The fog cleared and we boarded our zodiacs for a short walk ashore around the station and up to the graves of some poor Norwegian whalers who's died in the station some two hundred years earlier.

(average age 28 years old!)

As we left this remote and tranquil old whaling and seal station, I couldn't help think that what was in it's day a highly focal and effective slaughter house had slowly been overrun by nature and, poignantly enough, those animals that the people had so actively slaughtered, now guarded their very graves...hmmmmm......

We headed for Fortuna Bay.

We had another Zodiac tour and saw some rather large Elephant Seals basking in the sun. We also visited another colony of King Penguins and also saw some Reindeer (that had been introduced to the islands) It was a nice walk and we had a good feed on our return.

Today we were walking....

Not just any old walk....

Nope.... we were going to follow the final 5 kilometers that Shakleton and his compadres finally made once they'd reached South Georgia.

The weather was sunny and it was the end of summer for us.... for those guys... it was the End of Autumn....

It was an easy enough walk and we headed up into the hills waving Europa off as she left to meet us on the other side of the ridge where she would pick us up after the walk (hopefully!)

We crossed the peak and headed down towards Stromness bay (where Shakleton some 100 years earlier had hurtled down on his ass in the snow)

We didn't have snow, however, I decided some moss would suffice and slid down on (an increasingly wet arse) down the hill... minus a few rocks every now and again... the slide worked quite well... nobody followed though....wimps :)

On the Beach lay the remains of another whaling station from where Shakleton had recuperated and embarked on a final trip to retrieve his compadres from elephant island some six months later!

They'd all survived !!!

We set sail for Grytviken... the capital (i.e. there were people there) of South Georgia.

We reached the "Big smoke" late in the afternoon and were welcomed by one of the research fishing vessels. The Catabatic Winds had started to whip around and after some waiting around before we could safely dock, we were due to head out to the other side of the island as a day hike.

The following morning we anchored up and after some formalities (where even though it is British soil... we still had to pay $100 for a visa) we were allowed ashore.

We were due to walk across the island to the other side of the point (the Maiviken walk) This was fun and although not everyone took part in the walk it was certainly scenic and well worth the 6 hours round trip.

We arrived back and went to the museum and walked around Grytviken (where we also visited the Shakelton Monument and his grave)

That night we all had a party and were joined by a few residents from the island's 12 strong permanent staff
(I think it was 4 scientists, an electrician, base commander, doctor, The Bases Ships' captain, shop keeper, museum curator and his wife and a postmistress)

We went to bed about 1.30am after a barbie and some free Antarctica Branded beer (Which was made in Brazil...figure that one out!) Anyway.... I kept an empty can for posterity reasons :) And we all consumed many more ! :)

We left early in the morning and had a good sail down the coast... albeit with slightly dickey heads and stomachs ;)

We headed for Godthul bay and Since Steph an I were nursing severe hangovers... we didn't land and chilled out on the ship (Steph made it up the Main mast too !!)

As the sun began to set I was fascinated by the returning Gentoo penguins who all swam straight up to the ship... would pop their heads up (as if to say what the Feck's this big thing!) and then swim around three times (the same amount each time) before working out they could swim around the ship :) Most amusing, however, I managed to get some good penguin swimming shots as a result.

We were pleasantly surprised to see that overnight there had been a smattering of snow and as a result the ship was covered with a fine white dusting that morning. Pictures were taken and then the obligatory snowball fight was had.

We then went via Zodiac to another old whaling station called Ocean Harbour where we got to see many penguins, seals, sea lions, Elephant seals, Albatross, Blue eyed shags and a myriad of other birds.

As if this wasn't enough we then headed round to Penguin Cove... where we were greeted (again) by thousands of Penguins...

Gentoos, Chinstraps and King Penguins all huddled together up the cliff sides (which must have been a good old climb to get there and back!)

We went to bed after a good feed and in the morning we headed down to Coppers Bay to see if we could find the so-far illusive Macaroni Penguins (of which there were supposedly more in South Georgia than anywhere else on earth!)

We weren't disappointed and after Landing in Coopers Bay, and short Zodiac ride and a quick hike up a hillside (which was snow and penguin shite laden and slippy as heck) we arrived at the Macaroni Penguin colony.

They are lovely little birds with Red Eyes and a Tuft of yellow feathers shooting back from their eyes (as if tucked back behind their ears.... expect they don't have any... but you can imagine anyway!) These little (noisy) guys seemed to be the final tick on most people's lists of "What to see in South Georgia" (which many of those aboard seemed to have in terms of expectations of the place)
and having been thoroughly Fauna and Flora'd out by this fantastic Island we settled into Anchor watch (from 10 til 12) as Europa was unable to set sail due to high winds

We leave tomorrow morning...boo hoo.....

Thank you South Georgia...

What a great place and a place that will I'm sure remain in Both our hearts for a long time!

Posted by Taffski 04:46 Archived in Falkland Islands Tagged boating Comments (0)

South Georgia - Part 1

The Jewel of the South Atlantic

overcast 4 °C
View The Three A´s on Taffski's travel map.

We arrived late in the evening and the weather closed in and we were soon enveloped in a blanket of Fog. We could hear and smell the land, however, it was too dangerous for us to Anchor up... so we sailed on that night.

We could hear the penguins and the seals but couldn't see anything... it was a kind of eerie place and to start with I wasn't sure of what to expect of the island group!

It's literally miles from anywhere... I remember that during the Falklands war... an SAS team landed in South Georgia and that there were no lives lost as a result, however, other than that.... Neither of us were too sure what to expect!

We'd pulled into Rosita Harbour at the Northwest point of the islands and had a little Zodiac tour of the area. We were joined by what seemed like hundreds of Sea Lions and they played around in the water as we sailed into the Harbour. We also managed to see Petrels, some King Penguins and Albatross flying around us as we plodded around in Sloopy....The Boat as opposed to one of the Zodiacs on board :)

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It was nice as to celebrate dry land and hopefully a landing on the Islands tomorrow... we all got a little bit drunk :) It was a nice evening.

By Morning we'd already moved to Salisbury plains, which was where we to land firstly in South Georgia.... What a place!

150,000 King Penguins !!!

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The main colony was further along the beach than where we landed, however, we were able to hang about with those on the pebble beach and just admire the birds as the fought, argued, flirted, and basically just enjoyed themselves on the beach.

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They're beautiful Birds and up close (which they were all to happy to come over and try to eat your Wellington boot or your jacket) their colours really are magical. Black and White with a crown of Yellow the Males and females were virtually identical, however, they all just waddled around through us as we sat on the beach. Magical !

We then were rounded up by Tully (Our Naturalist) and walked over the throng that was the main bulk of the colony.

How noisy, smelly, muddy, shitty (Penguin poop everywhere) a place it is..... and yet Beautiful at the same time. Here there were still some chicks and they were getting fed by the adults while the obligatory Skua's hung overhead waiting for any opportunity to grab a bite to eat (Penguin Chick food or indeed Penguin Chick given half a chance!)

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There were also the Obligatory Sea Lions inter dispersed along the beach and at the fringes of the colony, however, it definitely was a view that very, very few people in the world have seen and combined with it being our first landing on South Georgia, had already cemented the place as one of our favourites (all in one day and it was only lunch time!)

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Ok.... off to Prion Island to go and see some Giant Wandering Albatross. Where the heck are we I thought !!! This place is magical!

A few years earlier in New Zealand, Steph and I had gone to a part of the South Island specifically to see Wanderers, however, all we got to see was a single ball of fluff (a chick) and no adults.... so we were both excited at being able to see the birds with the largest wingspan in the world up close and personal!

We landed on the Island and then had to run (literally at points) the gauntlet of mother and baby Seals that were inter dispersed in the Grassy knolls that ran along side the path up to the Albatross rookery.

Wow.... there were about 20 Wanderers on the top of the bluff.... there were chicks, courting Adults and Juveniles all on land, however, there were also about 10 full grown adults gliding above our heads on the updrafts from the cliffs at the far side of the colony.

Some of the Adults began to display and to our delight they began to perform the Albatross Courtship dance right in front of us.... Amazing !

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These birds mate for life are now on the endangered list and to give you an idea of their size.... think of a bird that's the size of a sheep when stood up with the wingspan of a car when their flying !

Gorgeous birds and since the sun was setting at the time it was a beautiful location to witness one of the, sadly, rarer love dances in the world.

Every now and again I need to pinch myself (and Steph) to realise what exactly we're witnessing in this place and it's still day 1!!!!

Posted by Taffski 04:08 Archived in Falkland Islands Tagged boating Comments (0)

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