Jim Favor's journeys travel blog

We arrived at the northwest coast of South Georgia at breakfast time. The passengers ate while the captain and crew checked out our first possible landing site at Right Whale Bay. We were soon told that the swell was small enough but the wind was too much. It seems that the critical time is when a zodiac returns empty to the ship to pick up another load of sightseers. So we had some wait time until we get to another place to try.

While we were waiting, Trevor gave us part 2 of his “In the Wake of Shackleton: The Crossing.” This time he talked about making the hike from the south side of South Georgia to the north where Shackleton finally reached civilization at the Stromness Whaling Station. Even with good weather, modern equipment, good maps, and a hand-held GPS they had a tough time. It makes Shackleton’s feat seem that more remarkable to me.

The next place they tried to land us was not safe either. We were beginning to despair. But the third time was a charm. They found a place named Prion Island in the Bay of Isles that was shielded from the winds. About 11:00 AM we were called to disembark. Evelyn had been given tall boots to wear but I had not. I took my Neos down, but they had a pair of men’s 44 for me to try. Praise God, they fit perfectly. I was very pleased.

We went ashore in groups of about 8. We landed near a boardwalk that leads up to the top of a hill – reportedly a Wandering Albatross nesting site. However, once we climbed the hill we found only two chicks on nests waiting to be fed. We did see lots of seal pups all along the boardwalk and on top. They were very cute and very inquisitive. Back on the beach we saw a few King Penguins. The zodiac trip back to the ship was a little windy but not bad.

Soon after lunch we got to “Salisbury Plain, a broad plain of glacial moraine and silt.” As we were sailing by, the tour leader announced that it was too windy here also. However, about five minutes later he announced that the wind had dropped and that we would anchor long enough to test the beach. Soon afterward we got the word to disembark. We hurriedly got on our expedition gear and headed to the back deck.

We landed on a broad beach where there were quite a few King Penguins and some seal pups. I would have been happy there but they led us off down the beach toward the far end. Once there we found a solid landscape of King Penguins as far as the eye could see at ground level and then up the side of the hill behind. Our naturalist said that there are approximately 150,000 nesting pairs there. I think we saw all of them. It was mind boggling – no other words are adequate to describe it.

The surf had come up while we were ashore and it was sleeting lightly, but the time ashore more than made up for the rough trip back. We were greeted back with hot washcloths and hot fruit tea with brandy. They sure do treat us well.

At 6:00 PM we had another DVD “Life in the Freezer: The Race to Breed.” It talked more about Antarctica and the ice shelf and how certain seals and penguins have to wait for the ice to melt before getting to land and deliver their pups and then mate again. It ends up that Emperor Penguins can only successful raise two pups every three years. It is shocking to me how quick an exposed egg or incubating chick will freeze solid [in about 2 minutes].

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