My Travels Around the World

Category: South Georgia

South Georgia and Falklands – Last Days.  Last Thoughts: Days 13-15

Nov 6-7, 2017

Leaving South Georgia – two more days at sea: Days 13&14

Our two days at sea were quiet. The ship rocked again. We were again crossing the Southern Ocean. The days were spent with a few more lectures, catching up on writing and editing this blog, and, unfortunately, packing. There was a guest slide show with all our best photos. The Captain had a farewell cocktail party. And mostly, we were just sad. This was one trip I did not want to see end. We had dinner with Gianluca Colla, a wonderful photographer and teacher who we had to say good-by to.  We went up to the deck and realized we were already back in Stanley. Instead of darkness in the horizon, we were back in civilization.

Nov 8, 2017

Our return to the Falklands: Day 15

We docked early in the morning, back at our same spot in Stanley. This time it was to say goodbye. They called us by cabin numbers this time, instead of zodiac groups. Our luggage was placed outside our cabin doors to be taken straight to our plane.

We were bused over to town, where after a quick cup of coffee and some cookies at the Malvinas Hotel, we were taken on an hour drive to the Mount Pleasant International Airport which is on the British Forces South Atlantic Islands Mount Pleasant Complex, i.e., the military base. Our private charter was given special permission to land for one hour (not a moment more) to drop off the next group of guests and take us back to Santiago. (Remember, we came from Buenos Aires, but you can’t fly from the Falklands to Argentina.  You now know why). And then we reached the base. It immediately looked different as it had a fence of trees, trees on an island that has almost none. And all the trees were bent with the wind.

We went inside the terminal, stood on line to check in, and then waited for the plane to arrive. When it finally did, we stood by the window and waved at all the people that were coming to take our place. They were excited. We were jealous.

Last thoughts

South Georgia is a truly wild, majestic, beautiful, complicated island. It is an island of extreme nature. Some days, we saw all the moods of weather within two hours. Sun. Snow. Sleet. Wind. More snow. More wind.

Often the weather gets bad about every four days. But we were lucky. We were able to land in three places where the largest colonies of King penguins live. St. Andrews. Gold Harbor. Salisbury. Luck. Plain luck.

My heart just soared as I watched. The interactions between the chicks. Between the adults. Between the chicks and the adults. The faces. The eyes. The birds soaring. The birds floating in the wind. The sounds which went right through me. And as loud as they were, they were almost soothing as they were only the sounds of nature.

Gianluca told us that magic happened at least twice on this trip. The morning we got up before the sun and watched the golden glow was magic. The moment of wonder being surrounded by penguins and chicks. It was almost overwhelming to take pictures because no picture can bring justice to the experience. And of course he was so right.

And you can’t be in South Georgia and not think about Shackleton. Sitting early in the morning in my cabin, watching the tall waves hit the window and the isolated bird flying around. I couldn’t help but think of him. On the Southern Sea, the Scotia sea.  Roughest waters in the world.  We have the comfort of warm beds, good food, GPS, radar, medicine for seasickness. They had nothing but the determination and will to keep going in order to save lives. And that is the story of South Georgia.


Salisbury Plain and Farewell to South Georgia: Day 12

November 5, 2017

Salisbury Plain


Salisbury Plain lies on the north coast of South Georgia. We started out here, when we first arrived, looking out at the field of penguins from the deck of the ship, and now we return for our last zodiac landing on South Georgia. The great American ornithologist, Robert Cushman Murphy, did much of his research here in 1912-1913 and named one of the many glaciers here after his wife, Grace. The other glacier we can see from our windows is the Lucas Glacier.

The hills are covered in tussock grass which houses one of the largest King penguin colonies in South Georgia, with 70,000-100,000 pairs. PAIRS!

We woke up early, eagerly lifted our blinds and looked out our window. The scene was one of white on white with a few black dots. It had snowed here since we stood here a week ago. After yesterday’s high winds, we were not sure what we would find here, and whether we would be able to go ashore. But while the temperature was low, the wind howling, it was only about 12 degrees F with the wind chill factor.  Doable, as long as we again put on every piece of clothing we had brought along!

I put on my jacket and went to the top deck to take it all in. The sky was blue, the sun was coming out and began reflecting on the glaciers. The plain was covered in snow and the penguins were huddled in groups at the shoreline, reflecting in the calm water. There were a few elephant seals bellowing, but not as many as on other beaches in other parts of South Georgia.

Fortuna Bay, Stromness Harbor and Prion Island: Day 11

Saturday Nov 4, 2017

Fortuna Bay

The hikers among us were up early to walk in Shackleton’s footsteps on his last leg of his epic crossing of South Georgia, up the mountain and down the other side. The hike was 4 miles long with 1000 feet of elevation over tussock grass, snow, mud, grass, gravel, boulders, glacial plains with streams and varying depths of snow.  We dropped them off at Fortuna Bay and then continued on our way to Stromness Harbor.

Bay of Stromness

We opted instead to go up to the bridge, where Eduardo was drinking his mate (an Argentinian green tea) , and where we watched us sail into the Bay of Stromness with its whaling station. From the bridge we could see some small black dots in the snow, moving down the glacier.  This was some of our people, at the end of their hike, sliding down the snow the way Shackleton and his men did.

Drygalski Fjord – Larsen Harbor and Copper Bay: Day 10

Friday Day 10 November 3, 2017

Drygalski Fjord

It was a cold, rainy and windy day. We threw on some warm clothes and made our way to the bridge. We were in a cove of the southernmost fjord in South Georgia, Drygalski Fjord, at the very end of it, standing in front of huge glaciers. This fjord is 8.5 miles long and its scenery was exquisite. There were snow petrels flying everywhere, their white feathers often blending into the snow behind them. We learned that 60% of South Georgia is glacier, but most of the glaciers do not make it all the way to the water’s edge. This glacier descends down the mountain right into the bay. It was white, with crevices in blue, and then whole large areas that were a frosted blue (which means the ice is more dense). The glaciers are so strong that they carve the mountains, giving the fiord a dramatic look. And the mountains? They are 6000-7000 feet tall.

So as I stood on the bow of the ship, literally being blown away, not only by the strong winds coming down the glacier, but by the majestic beauty of the surrounding brown and green mountains dotted with white snow, white and blue glaciers, and water that alternated between light blue, dark blue and turquoise. We watched a lone whale dancing in and out of the water. We watched the movement of the water.  And we were awed.

Gold Harbor and St Andrews Cove: Day 9

November 2, 2017


This morning’s wake up call was at 445am. We got up quickly, put on layer after layer of clothes, grabbed our life jackets and headed out to watch the sun rise over Gold Harbor. Gold Harbor, called this because the sun’s rays make the cliffs yellow with their light in the morning and in the evening. And that’s why we got up early, to reach the beach as the sun was rising and the light was golden.

Grytviken and the Bay of Godthul: South Georgia Day 8

Wednesday, Nov 1, 2017


Grytviken is the old whaling station on South Georgia Island. Some of the staff from South Georgia Heritage Trust, which runs the station and the museum, came on board to tell us a bit about whaling. They joined us for breakfast and could not get enough fruit. When you live in such isolation, every visitor is a gift. After breakfast we all went ashore to hike around, tour the station and visit the South Georgia Museum.

And as we pulled into the cove, we could see what was left of the station. Old rusted ships. The buildings. The rusted containers that once held the whale oil. And the cemetery.  Not just any cemetery.  But more on that later.

Arriving at Elsehul Bay, South Georgia: Day 7

October 31, 2017 Halloween

Good morning, good morning – we made it!

We got our wake up call, which is Doug coming on over the intercom saying, “Good morning, good morning…” at 7:00am. Turns out we made great time crossing the Scotia Sea and since we arrived earlier than originally planned, we had the chance to start touring early.

Elsehul Bay

We anchored at Elsehul Bay, described to us as “incredibly picturesque and stunning.” This is an amphitheater of a bay which we would be exploring by zodiac, searching the shoreline for Albatross and other seabirds.

Days at Sea – The Scotia Sea on the way to South Georgia: Days 5&6

Sunday-Monday, October 29-30, 2017

Rock ‘n Roll

Last night, ropes suddenly appeared all along the halls of the ship. Something to hold on to. The chairs were already tied down, and the silverware was placed inside the napkins. And as we left Stanley and hit the open waters, the ship began “rockin ‘n rollin.” Literally. Rocking. Rolling.

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