Grytviken

Our third day at South Georgia started with a lecture about rats and how to kill them. More information can be obtained here: http://www.sgisland.gs/index.php/%28e%29Eradication_Of_Rodents?useskin=env. Shackleton graveBeing the capital of South Georgia, Grytviken’s deceased inhabitants include Shackleton, whale boneswhales and the equipment to kill them with. whaling ship

Very much alive are the scientists from the BAS (http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/about_bas/our_history/stations_and_refuges/kep.php) modern stationin their research station. small Elephant sealsThe Elephant Seals, watched by Scottish tourist, are only sleeping. viewThe view over the bay is really spectacular, and I also managed to get my first picture of a Snow Petrel.Snowy Petrel

 

First Impressions of South Georgia

We woke up on Dec 7 to this view from our porthole. South Georgia 1Rain, fog, swell. Breakfast time. And because the weather on South Georgia changes faster than you can say ‘fur seal’, after breakfast we enjoyed this: South Georgia 2

It became clear that both beach and sea were teeming with wildlife.South Georgia 4South Georgia 3 We spotted Fur Seals in the water and a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross kept on flying by. Fur SealLight-mantled Sooty Albatross

Best of all, however, were the King Penguins. At a rough estimate, 200 000 King Penguins.Kings Then we went ashore … next post.

Shag Rocks & an Iceberg

On the afternoon of Dec 4 we started sailing towards South Georgia, which we would reach eventually on Dec 7. In between, we crossed from the South Atlantic Ocean into the Antarctic (Southern) Ocean, or Scotia Sea as this part of it is called. The two oceans are connected or separated, that depends on your point of view, by the Antarctic Convergence (wikipedia article).
The first South Georgian outpost we made out in the fog on the afternoon of Dec 6 was Shag Rocks. shag rocksThey are aptly named after their inhabitants.
Yes, it’s the dots on the rocks – mainly shags and albatrosses. shag rocks detail
Shortly afterwards, we knew for sure we’d come south when we met our first iceberg, just a small one. You can see an albatross flyingiceberg and albatross just left of the middle if you zoom into the photo. I was, still am, captivated by ice. iceberg and petrelsThere is so much to discover in the whiteness, like the two Cape Petrels or the dark layer (maybe volcanic ash) in the ice. Beautiful frozen water. iceart

The Smallprint

As I’ve mentioned in passing before, when one visits South Georgia or Antarctica, one has to follow certain rules. Most of those are there to ensure the safety of the wildlife and the environment from visitors, but some are also about visitors’ maintaining of personal well-being. Information with regards to South Georgia can be found here: http://www.sgisland.gs/index.php/Main_Page and about Antarctica here: http://iaato.org/frequently-asked-questions#top.

Following the suggestions for how best to dress is vital. Katabatic winds can appear out of nowhere, and then it is crucial to have something that will keep you warm and protected. And this is what it looks like:boots as you can see from the picture, I was wearing a wind- and waterproof outer layer, a thermal mid-layer, hat, gloves, sunglasses and rubberboots. They were mandatory for all passengers and stored away neatly according to cabin number. boots2As you can’t see in the top picture, there was another thermal layer underneath, plus a normal one. I asure you, although the lowest temperature we experienced was only about -1.5°C, the windchill made it feel much colder. I was very glad about all my layers!

For kayaking I had to don two thermal layers and a drysuit (left hand side in the photo). For cruises in the polar circle boat two thermal layers, one water- and windproof layer and an extra thick suit (right hand side in the photo) had to be worn. suitsOn top of all of this came UV-protection for any tiny bits of exposed skin and a life vest. To maintain biosecurity and to avoid bringing new and unwanted species from one landing site to another, we also had to vacuum – using this huge hose – all our gear which went on shore with us. That was mostly fun except for the velcro bits in my outer trouser layer. They had always some stuff neatly sticking to it. vacuumSmoking was thankfully forbidden on all landing sites, as was the collection of stones, sand, bones, shells, plants or any other material (grumpily).