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Published: March 26th 2016
The Kings and the Elephant
Massive 'Beach Masters' elephant seals molt on the sandy beaches of South Georgia.
I had a lot of time at sea on my last voyage of the seaon... A final crossing of the Drake Passage, a stormy couple of days on the ferocious Scotia Sea, and an epic five-day sail from South Georgia to Buenos Aires (almost) on the ever-grumpy South Atlantic. These ten or so days at sea were spent with my muse and my friend, the Great Wanderer and his albatross cousins. The Wandering Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Southern and Northern Royals, Grey-headed, the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross as well as a cameo appearance from an Amsterdam Albatross! These massive birds with their 3 metre (11 ft) wingspan that soar effortlessly above the towering seas as they follow the ship in their search for food are mesmerizing. I spend hours out on deck fascinated by these birds that can stay at sea for several years at a time... The sea is a truly magical place.
‘Our planet looks like this’ I thought to myself, ‘A liquid planet where land is a relative luxury’. The entire horizon is a giant circle, bound only by endless sky. I really enjoy being at sea...
My farewell to the Antarctic Peninsula took place as we sailed
out of Maxwell Bay in the South Shetland Islands in a blanket of fog in a setting of mighty bergs. These massive floating islands have been everyday life for the past eleven weeks - millions of tons of floating ice, drifting and rolling as they slowly decay. We left the Peninsula and set course for the windswept and exposed island of South Georgia. The white caps danced on a liquid stage of shimmering blue, the sea-spray twirled in the howling wind and turned into sky. It was a bumpy ride to the incredibly remote British Territory, at first, we couldn't even get close to land due to extreme winds screaming from shore. But after a while the winds stopped and the the Kings were before us...
South Georgia is almost beyond words...
Southwards, a magnificent alpine country, illuminated by the rising sun, rose slowly from the sea; there were mighty fells with snowy crowns and with sharp, uncovered teeth, around the valleys through which enormous, broad rivers of ice came flowing to the sea. J Gunnar Andersson
Millions of king penguins line the shores, millions of fur seals lie along the coast. The wildlife on South Georgia is exceptional. An untamed land with adorable creatures that seem somewhat tame. It is utterly remarkable to be in the presence of so much wildlife. The kings of this wild outpost at the edge of a wild ocean are by far the most curious and photogenic
of the Antarctic creatures I have yet to encounter - they are incredible.
My Antarctic season ended in Mar del Plata, Argentina. The ship was running a little behind schedule due to weather, so the decision was made to change course to a different port and take buses to the giant capital of Buenos Aires.
The inner parts of the country are not less savage and horrible: the wild rocks raised their lofty summits till they were lost in the clouds and the valleys laid buried in everlasting snow. Not a tree or a shrub was to be seen, no not even big enough to make a toothpick. Captain James Cook.
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