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Published: November 14th 2016
The next two days we were at sea and again the weather gods smiled on us although Ruth was a little sea sick, all we did was eat, sleep and attend lectures. Eventually we arrived in Elsehul Bay our first landing in South Georgia where we boarded a zodiac to go ashore. Here we encountered our first King Penguins, Elephant Seals and Antarctica Fur Seals as well as various seabirds including the carrion eating Skua.
I had seen Elephant Seals from a distance in New Zealand but was unprepared for the sheer size of the males at close quarters. The King Penguins here were a bit ragged as they were molting, this affects their capability to swim and hunt which means they are hungry and miserable. At this site we also witnessed Elephant Seals mating and we saw our one and only Leopard Seal hunting off shore.
It was 'necessary' to negotiate a large swell on the return to the ship, we couldn't even see the Ushuaia between waves. When we attempted to disembark the ship heaved over the zodiac causing a surging wave that washed Ruth and I into the bottom of the boat, as we could not
get off the zodiac we sat soaked in the cold for thirty minutes or so losing feeling in our feet. Finally we managed to board the ship and get our wet clothes off.
The next morning we climbed aboard the zodiacs in choppy seas for the landing at the King Penguin colony at Salisbury Plain. We walked through much guano and a few icy streams while dodging around large seals of two species. I have never seen such an abundance of wildlife in one place and after walking about two kilometres we were soon removing gloves and beanies, the penguin colony stretched to the horizon. We were also lucky enough to see a number of rare South Georgia Pintail (a type of indigenous duck) and thousands of brown baby Kings.
In the afternoon we visited Prion Island and it's breeding ground of the world's largest flying bird the Wandering Albatross and were lucky enough to see 8 or 9 chicken about a year old, there were also a few seals, a Gentoo Penguin colony and a sneaky King Penguins that looked lost. There were a few South Georgia pipits which is great news as prior to the islands
rat extermination these birds were almost gone.
Our next landing was at the beautiful Fortuna Bay with its glowering mountains, icebergs, moss covered slopes and waterfalls. Lots of wildlife here as well with a large number of big bull Elephant Seals which were quite active in the late spring sunshine so we had to take additional care not to get in their way. A small Fur Seal trying to reach the sea was pursued by five larger males but managed to reach the ocean although the pursuit continued there as well.
Our next stop was Grytviken South Georgia's administrative capital and the site of an old whaling station made habitable. The grave of Ernest Shackleton and a few dozen other unlucky sods is here plus a Norwegian church, a number of wrecks and the excellent South Georgia Museum. Our last stop in South Georgia was the massive mind blowing King Penguin colony at St Andrews Bay where scientists estimate the population at more than 1.4 million. The colony sits at the base of a large glacier which when the mist burned off, proved extremely scenic. As with all large colonies the smell and noise was quite overwelming.
It is a shame to leave but Antarctica beckons.
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