Wandering Albatross

On Location: Highlights from South Georgia

Zegrahm Contributor|February 9, 2011|Blog Post

South Georgia: the jewel in the Antarctic crown and home to 32 million seabirds. Our introduction was less than auspicious, a Zodiac cruise in Elsehul Bay in the rain. By the end of this cruise the sun came out and bathed the king penguins and fur seals on the beaches in perfect light. Then, on to Salisbury Plain and its large rookery of king penguins; our time here was enhanced by a walk to a viewpoint where the rookery fanned out into the distance below us. The highlight of today was a visit to the little visited Prion Island, where we stood only a few feet away from the magnificent wandering albatross on their nests. A bird with the longest wingspan of 13 feet and which circles the Southern Ocean with hardly a wingbeat. Our day was completed with a barbeque dinner on deck, watching the albatross skim the surface around the ship on a balmy evening full of excitement and expectation for the days to come.

Day two consisted of a visit to a king penguin rookery in Fortuna Bay or a hike over the spectacular hills full of interesting geology on a perfect windless morning with blue skies to retrace the last section of the route which Sir Ernest Shackleton took to salvation in his epic survival story. A visit to his grave in Grytviken and to the remains of the whaling station provided us with an opportunity to post mail and shop in the gift store at the museum. We ended the day with the sun going down on a rookery of 250,000 pairs of king penguins which has a fast flowing stream running through the middle; a highlight of the voyage so far.

Our last day in South Georgia commenced at Gold Harbour with an astonishing array of elephant and fur seals, king and gentoo penguins, giant petrels, and skuas and sheathbills and a backdrop of a hanging glacier showering ice and snow onto the beach below. Magnificent! Our final landing ashore was in Cooper Bay to see macaroni penguins, beautiful birds with flamboyant yellow tufts on their heads. Getting to the rookery hidden away in the vegetation involved a struggle through the tussac grass and guano to see them, but it was well worth the effort. A Zodiac cruise allowed us to get closer to groups standing on the little rocky islands off the beach. With the weather deteriorating rapidly we left this magical place, where God would surely take his vacations, and headed south towards the South Orkney Islands.

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