My Travels: Amazing Wildlife Spectacles with South Georgia on My Mind

Overnight we crossed the Antarctic Convergence, where the icy waters of the Antarctic mix with the warmer waters of the Atlantic.

Map of South Georgia

Map of South Georgia

The ship maintained a blackout with no outside lights except essential navigation lights and all cabins had to have the blackout curtains drawn. We were doing this to avoid petrel mortality as they flew into the light like moths.

I awoke a new man. No sickness. I was so happy to be alive!

I was up before breakfast and went upstairs to the lounge and to the deck to suck in the sweet cold dry air and be faced with glaciers a few hundred meters away on either side of the ship. After being laid low I had forgotten all this port and starboard stuff.

I was looking at South Georgia, a long island running north south with a western seaboard that was hammered by Antarctic weather systems, and the eastern seaboard that had numerous bays that had been carved out by glaciers that still reached the sea, although in some places they were receding. The sea was ice blue, the sky clear with some wind. It was 1 Degree Celsius. Penguins were porpoising along side the ship and seals played like puppies around us in the water.

The Bay of Isles, South Georgia

I sat at the bar and had one of Amanda Jurinen’s famous Smoothies. It paid to get there early. Amanda always had a smile on and with her soft voice a Amanda at her smoothie barwarm greeting and a story to tell. She was a wonderful hostess.

Sailing Along Salisbury Plain

After a light breakfast we readied ourselves for an excursion to Salisbury Plain, which is found with the Bay of Isles.  The expedition team tried to land but decided it was too rough with big surf breaking on the black gravel beaches. We ended up riding the Zodiacs behind the backline, which was only 20 meters or so from the beach, so we would get good close ups of the view.

What a view it was: silver-white waves rolling onto the beach that was home to a breeding colony of King Penguins of more than 300 000 birds. Fur seals too numerous to mention. The colony stretched up from the beach, which was the widest point up into a low valley in the Alpine setting between the Grace and Lucas Glaciers. Yes, the mountains of South Georgia rise above the glaciers like the Alps rise above the plains of Italy and Germany. Except here he plains are the sea.

In the Zodiacs we could almost touch the penguins and seals. They launched themselves into the surf and played, some penguins swimming backstroke while others dived. They played in groups and broke away to hunt. On the beach the masses thronged and it was truly one of the amazing wildlife spectacles of this fragile earth of ours.

The breeding colony of 300 000 King Penguins on Salisbury Plain

The breeding colony of 300 000 King Penguins on Salisbury Plain

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King Penguin doing backstroke in the surf

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Seal swimming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squadron of King Penguins readying to dive

Squadron of King Penguins readying to dive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Lucky in Fortuna Bay

We boarded the Vavilov and made our way further down the island to Fortuna Bay. This was much more protected than Salisbury Plains and we landed easily and in the midst of penguins and baby seals, or wieners. There was a King Penguin breeding colony at the base of a glacier about 1 kilometer inland, but I was so engrossed with the wieners and the young penguins in their brown down that I hardly moved from where we landed.

Fortuna Bay

Fortuna Bay

 

Seals sparring in Fortuna Bay

Seals sparring in Fortuna Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were clear streams of water flowing in the green grass, while the waterfalls not a few hundred meters away that fell into the wetland were frozen. The peaks were high and covered in snow, the valleys lined with glaciers.

As we stood to take pictures and compose penguins and wieners would come up behind you, and when you turn around the wieners would bark and feign attack, just like a playful puppy.

Seals in action

Seals in action

Both Salisbury plain and Fortuna bay were stellar introductions to the spectacular wildlife of South Georgia.

Ocean Notes Day 7

Ocean Notes Day 7

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