Published: February 26th 2010January 15th 2010
After a wonderful landing at Salisbury Plain on South Georgia (well worth the 36 hour wait while the storm died down) we are back on the ship making our way along the north coast of the island. Its a continuous show of spectacular views, even with the heavy swell and low cloud its impossible not to stand outside and watch it all sailing past. After a few hours we turn into Fortuna Bay and as we travel the 3 miles to the glacier at the end of the fjord we become totally surrounded by the stunning scenery - you could just sit on the top deck and soak up the 360 degree view for hours. Indeed, as the swells are still strong and there are big waves crashing on the landing beach the more sensible passengers take this option while the more insane attempt to land - obviously we are in the latter group. Getting the zodiacs onto the beach is relatively easy the tricky bit is getting out of them before the next wave comes in and crashed over the top of you. Its early evening and the lighting is spectacular, its perfect for a gentle stroll along the beach
accompanied by fur seal pups and playful adults. Then, when you sit to soak up the evening rays the king penguins wander up and stand next to you - its just idyllic, so calm and relaxing.
The next morning, to make up for our lost day due to the force 12 storm, we are up at 04:00 to squeeze in an extra landing at Godthul. The landing beach is incredibly narrow and inhabited by the usual contingent of fur seals. Behind the beach the tussac covered hill slope steeply up to the plains above. Clambering up them is quite a challenge - they are well slippery and you have to keep changing route to avoid the fur seals in residence on the lower tussacs. On the plain above there are herds of reindeer (an introduced species), they are the first skittish animals we have come across, the only wildlife life that runs away instead of coming to investigate us. Down below us, near Lake Aviemore, is a small colony of Gentoo penguins. They have been watching us walking along and eventually curiosity gets the better of 4 of them and they come clambering all the way up the hillside
to investigate us. Five minutes later when they have finished checking us out they toboggan back down the snowy slope to rejoin the colony.
Our last stop is Grytviken, an old whaling station made famous as Shackleton's departure point for the Endurance expedition. Shackleton's grave is here and following tradition we drink a toast at the graveside and donate a dram to 'The Boss' - some more generously than others, it is single malt whisky!!. The rusted remains of the whaling station are still standing and wandering round you never know when a seal or penguin is going to unexpectedly emerge from some industrial relic - the wildlife seem unphased by the the buildings, the fur seals seem as happy sat on a rusty oil drum as they are on a mound of tussac grass. Even in this man-made environment there is still a feeling that the wildlife is the boss, you change your actions to accommodate the wildlife - when 2 elephant seals are lolling in the middle of the path in front of a building you have to walk all the way round the back of the building to get to the other side. Two small buildings
the landing beach at Fortuna Bay
the waves were pretty strong - they capzised the captains zodiac but he was trying to surf the waves
are still in use and contain a museum, post office and shop - when you've been at sea for 10 days this is like a metropolis and using money is quite a novelty.
And that's it our visit to South Georgia is over. Its another place you leaves you feeling that you have only scraped the surface, the wildlife here deserves more of your time. Sitting on South Georgia you get a very strong feeling that the place belongs to the wildlife, they are in control of it and have the right of way but they are happy to let you come and visit. You are not the master here, the wildlife is. Its a nice feeling.
So we re-board the ship, turn away from land and head south across the Scotia Sea towards Antarctica 2 whole days away.
There are more photos below