9th. & 10th.February, South Georgia, Right Whale Bay – Great Northern Petrels, Fur Seals
There was a day of preparation for South Georgia on the ship whilst we were still at sea. First a briefing about our expected program and how we should behave with the animals, distance apart, etc. was presented. Afterwards we all had to bring our rucksacks and outer clothing to the lecture theatre and vacuum clean them! I had seen a film about this on television not long before but could not then really imagine doing it. We then signed that we had done it and received an information pack provided by the British authorities. Another film about the control measures by the BBC team with Arthur Fothergill followed and in the afternoon one of the guides gave a talk about the Antarctic Convergence, being the boundry between the cold Antarctic currents and the ‘warmer’ waters further North. Another lecture on the history of the island I found rather superficial, but in the evening the first part of a good film about Shackelton with Kenneth Brannagh was shown. The second part was shown the following evening.
In the night we first reached the Shag rocks 250 km west of the main island and the ship finally arrived in South Georgia at lunch time on 10th. The first landing had been intended for Elsehul but was transferred to Right Whale Bay which is better protected from Northwesterly winds. We could hardly see it through the murk and rain, but there were fijords and steep sided cliffs with waterfalls similar to those in Norway but with practically no green. When it cleared slightly we could see some snow patches and part of a glacier on the mountains. As we approached a strange noise echoed across the water, sounding like a distant noisy school playground. This was mostly made by the thousands of fur seals (sea lions) with the penguins joining in. At about 15.00 we set off in the zodiacs wearing all our weatherproof gear. On the way to the beach it was possible to take some pictures of a flock of the huge Great Northern Petrels feeding on a dead seal in the water and then of some of the many seal pups which were quite inquisitive. One solitary Chinstrap penguin and a few small groups of King penguins looked a bit lost. With any luck we shall see countless thousands of these tomorrow at Salisbury Plain. Later in the afternoon the rain became heavier, but the forecast is for less wind and hopefully less rain tomorrow, when we are going to have an early start and a long day. On returning to the ship I searched in vain for a drying room. The handrails in the gangways had to serve as lines for hanging our wet gear to dry.