Matt & Emmy in Antarctica & Easter Island travel blog

Emmy talking with King Penguins at Gold Harbour

Sunrise in Gold Harbour

Battling elephant seals

A weaner elephant seal

King Penguin chicks in their fur coats

Today was our last day in South Georgia. We woke up stunningly early at 3:30 a.m. ship's time for our landing today. An interesting note is that the ship keeps its own time, as it pleases. We have dropped two hours since leaving Ushuaia even though South Georgia is only one hour east of there. We do this to maximize daylight time - since otherwise sunrise would be at 2:45 am or so. As it is, sunset is at about 10 p.m. and sunrise around 4:00 am - so we're getting 18 hours of daylight.

We woke up at this ungodly hour so we could get ashore in Gold Harbor before sunrise. Gold harbor is home to colonies of King Penguins and elephant seals. We made it ashore in the Zodiak before sunrise (we landed about 4:15 am, and sunrise was 4:45 am). The beach was packed densely with King Penguins - many of them chicks - and many elephant seals (but no fur seals).

The penguin chicks were extremely curious about their human visitors. Emmy and I would sit down on the volcanic sand beach to take pictures, and as soon as we did, we would be approached by penguin chicks looking at us. We would turn around and find 5 to 10 of them surrounding us in a semicircle, about five feet away, staring at us curiously. They acted just like human children would - the group would stare at us, and eventually one would get brave enough to approach closer, and then all his friends would do the same. The chicks would inch their way as close as a foot from us. It was quite amazing.

The elephant seal pups behaved similarly, though not as gracefully, since they had to haul their huge bodies across the sand. The pups (called "weaners" by our naturalists) would wiggle their way right up to us as well.

In addition to all these kids checking us out, there were thousands of mature penguins and seals on the beach. The elephant seal males would engage in mock combat to maintain their dominance on the beach, body-slamming each other and showing their teeth and occasionally biting one another. Luckily, unlike the fur seals, elephant seals are of no threat to humans unless you were unlucky enough to have their several ton body slam into you.

We moved on to Cooper Bay nearby for a Zodiak cruise - the fur seal population here was too dense. Our last bit of South Georgia was a cruise up Drygalski Fjord in the Endeavour, a spectacular fjord near the southeast tip of South Georgia with high mountains and glaciers leading right up to the fjord. Late in the day, we started sailing for the South Orkney Islands.

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