Christmas with the Kings


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South America » South Georgia » South Georgia
December 25th 2008
Published: February 11th 2009
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Back on Minerva, Santa Claus and his elf arrived by Zodiac to much applause and amusement, after taking a couple of celebratory turns around the ship, and everyone took a photo with him seated next to a Christmas tree on the stern. And I always thought Santa lived at the North Pole…

During lunch we saw an Orca (Killer Whale) surfacing very near the ship, plus our first iceberg as we steamed south-east to the Bay of Isles and Salisbury Plain where we anchored early afternoon and set off for shore fifteen minutes later. This is an amazing place, with one of the largest King Penguin colonies in the world. Tens of thousands of them stand all along the beach and up the hillside between Grace and Lucas Glaciers. There are many juveniles in their brown fur coats, gathered in crèches awaiting the return of their parents with food. And many adults each incubating an egg in their egg flap. The King Penguin breeding cycle is too complicated to describe here, but it results in every stage of the cycle being visible at any time during the Austral summer.

Along the beach were also thousands of Fur Seals; mature and young males, breeding females, juveniles, and a few newborn pups. The setting was dramatic with snow-covered hills close by the beach and the two stunning glaciers reaching almost down to the sea. We spent two hours ashore, but could easily have spent an entire day here without getting tired of the entertainment.

As we steamed out of the Bay of Isles, the Captain announced that he was going to make a diversion into Possession Bay where Cook originally landed in 1775 and claimed South Georgia for the British monarch. The Captain had never been in here before - it is poorly charted and mostly avoided by large expedition ships. We watched our careful navigation from the bridge and it was stunningly beautiful with Purvis and Briggs Glaciers flowing together down to the sea, and an old whaling station nestling in Prince Olav Harbour near the entrance to the Bay. The sun was sinking slowly behind the snow-speckled mountains to the west, and white fluffy clouds edged with gold provided a backdrop to the vast landscape. It was hard to drag ourselves away from the bridge but we finally did as Minerva turned around towards Cape Constance and, having thrown on some smarter clothes, we went down for a late dinner of turkey and Christmas pudding.Next ➤ ➤

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