Subject: Day 18, March 8 – South Georgia Island and Reposition to Falkland Islands
Today we had an early morning, before breakfast Zodiac landing; we have had at least two Zodiac landings a day. When we hit the beach there was a huge leopard seal lying on the beach just waiting to be photographed. The leopard seal was the only creature we didn’t have a great picture of, and he is the one at the top of the food chain. No one messes with the leopard seal. Although on land, no one seemed worried. The King Penguins were walking all around and the “little nippers” were having a go at harassing this gigantic seal as well. Hannah said it is the biggest one she has ever seen. By the way, baby fur seals are called “little nippers” because they only take little bites out of you unlike their daddies who can be quite dangerous. Some times the zodiacs cannot land because there are too many aggressive fur seals on the beach.
Our second landing of the morning was at Prion Island, in the Bay of Isles. We walked up a board walk to see the wandering albatrosses and their nests. There was no doubt the feeling about the board walk by the crew. One of our naturalist’s guides, said with disgust, “I hate this board walk, and pretty soon there will be park rangers here as well!” That is something everyone on board has mentioned – the total absence of people. It is sort of a strange feeling. Even in the Amazon, you passed small groups of people or would see them along the river. Here - absolutely no one. As to the board walk, sorry, but there is no way on this earth I personally could have made that climb without it. Seeing the wandering albatrosses and their nests was so amazing. And to think, they are almost extinct due to line fishing by Asian fishing ships. South Georgia is doing all they can but the albatross reproduces so slow they can’t seem to make a come back. So seeing them was truly a special treat. We kill so many species with net fishing, it was interesting to learn that line fishing also has it hazards. Being an environmentalist is not an easy task.
Speaking of special treats; Mick, our bird scientist, was telling us that the last cruise to the island, it was raining so hard no one could see anything much less a bird. The time before that they had those catabatic winds, which are the winds we had at the whaling station. They are an backwards avalanche of wind in excess of up to 171 m/hr. So no one could stand up much less climb a boardwalk. He then added that he can’t remember ever being able to make all of the planned Zodiac stops due to weather. We have made every one to date, even those on the actual continent of Antarctica. How lucky we have been. Today on the top of the island with all of the birds, the sun was shining and only a slight breeze with a temp of three degrees Celsius. We have been so lucky. I am however glad we witnessed a blizzard and freezing rain at Orcadas Station, the Argentine base, and the catabatic winds at Grytvicken; otherwise, we wouldn’t believe them when they tell us how harsh the Antarctic weather can be. With only 8 days of sun a year, we have experienced two of them. How lucky is that!
We are now heading out into the Scotia Sea and Hannah tells us we are in for a rough ride. It will take us two and half days at sea to reach the Falkland Islands. I haven’t mentioned the weather up to this point in fear of jinxing ourselves, but the Falklands are closer to home and the crew says they are usually doable. We will see, but I am so pleased with the adventure so far, I feel truly satisfied. We have experienced a new world. If it is ever possible, everyone should see South Georgia Island.
More to follow,
Tom & Holly