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Published: February 11th 2009
We cruised slowly on a flat sea into Fortuna Bay, dominated by the beautiful Konig Glacier at its southern extremity. The sky was perfectly blue, and the temperature was 11°C - how lucky were we with the weather? By eight o’clock we hit the beach amidst a bunch of adult male Fur Seals, and walked up onto the grassy plateau at the foot of the glaciers. Away from the beach, it was all much more relaxed. Amongst the icy streams trickling down to the sea, thousands of King Penguins and many Fur and Elephant Seals make their home. In the distance, a small herd of reindeer trotted past - a rather bizarre sight since these are creatures of the far north rather than the far south; they were introduced as a food source by early twentieth century whalers and have grown to a sustainable population of two thousand. This was a very picturesque spot, and we enjoyed just taking it all in and watching the behaviour of the wildlife all around us.
Back on Minerva we had lunch as she re-positioned to Maiviken Bay. From here it was a five-kilometre walk to Grytviken, site of South Georgia’s first and most
famous whaling station in the island’s best-protected harbour, King Edward Cove. Expedition Director, Lou Sanson, had wanted to do this walk for ten years, but until today the conditions had never been right. Those of us making the walk were dropped off, while the ship made her way around by sea. We began by wading up a stream policed by highly aggressive young male Fur Seals who would bark suddenly and lunge out at us from behind tufts of tussock grass. While most seals ignore humans just as they do most other species, Fur Seals for some reason consider humans to be a territorial threat. Evasive action involves banging rocks together and waving ones arms to deter them from attacking - and at all costs not turning one’s back on them. Beyond the stream we skirted an attractive lake before attacking the first climb up a steep rock-strewn incline. The fairly arduous walk took us up and down across streams, around lakes, through bogs and some more steep inclines, finally cresting a 200-metre pass and then down into Grytviken where the ruins of South Georgia’s main whaling station sit at the end of an enclosed harbour.
Although visiting abandoned
human habitations was not what I had come to this part of the world to see, I must say that Grytviken was a very attractive spot - particularly approaching it overland. It nestles beautifully in King Edward Cove, and the old rusting machinery and wrecks glow richly in the late afternoon light. Ernest Shackleton died here in 1922, six years after his epic voyage from the Antarctic ice to South Georgia, and he is buried in a simple cemetery just outside the development.
Back on Minerva the kitchen put on a delicious stern deck barbecue - although we ate it indoors with Gerry and Milt given that it was about 5°C outside. We retired around eleven as we were expecting a very early call for sunrise at Gold Harbour, named for its dramatic dawn spectacle.Next ➤ ➤
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