Subject: Day 17, March 7 – South Georgia Island
Every night on the ship we have happy hour where drinks are half price. Good deal! The BBQ immediately followed happy hour last night, so everyone stocked up before we started eating. As you can imagine, the entire crowd was a “happy” group.
This morning, we sent a group of 36 hikers off who wanted to hike the last four miles of Shackleton’s final trek to find the whaling station at Stomness. The entire hike took Shackleton and two others 36 hours, and this is after 16 days at sea in a very small craft. Not just any sea, but the Drake Passage. They also had scurvy and were near death’s door. Yet, no one has been able to replicate either the sea voyage or the hike in the same amount of time. The best time to date following Shackleton’s trail over the mountain is 56 hours and this is with equipment and done by people who were healthy. After two years, all Shackleton had was his logbook, a compass, and wet clothes. The four mile hike the ship’s people will do today gains an altitude of 300m. There is also a steep snow slope to descend before you reach Stomness whaling station. The ship added, “Once you start he walk there is no turning back.” Therefore, we enjoyed breakfast on the ship and will pick them up in a few hours.
We picked up the hikers at Stromness whaling station and they all made the hike without incident, although some of them were pretty tired and felt that they exceeded their physical capabilities. Stromness is an old deserted whaling station that was abandoned in 1931 during the great depression. Consequently there are a lot of old buildings and other debris scattered throughout the area. There are also herds of reindeer roaming South Georgia Island brought here by the whalers to be used for food. When we landed this morning, one of the expedition staff noticed a reindeer with its horns tangled up in cable hanging from a pole unable to move. The crew working the gangway wanted to shoot it and have reindeer meat tonight, but the expedition staff, being the environmentalists that they are, wanted to free it. So we had the opportunity to watch Antarctica Cowboys in action. They were able to lasso the reindeer and hold it still while they cut the cable loose allowing the reindeer to run away and join the herd. This is one lucky reindeer because we are the last ship of the season going into this area and the reindeer would have starved to death, if we hadn’t come along. Everyday in Antarctica is an adventure. This afternoon we are taking a Zodiac cruise in Hercules Bay which has a colony of Macaroni Penguins and a large number of nesting light-mantled sooty albatross.
More to follow,
Tom & Holly