Friday, 5 March 2010

South Georgia Blew Us Away!

Worrying about the weather won't stop the wind from blowing.  True, we do check weather forecasts on a regular basis.  We do make contingency plans in case of inclement weather but the word of the day is flexibility.  We had planned on an early landing in Fortuna Bay. A stouthearted group was also going to hike the leg of Shackleton's arduous journey that went from Fortuna to the former whaling station at Stromness.  But, the wind had other plans.  Strong katabatic winds raged down König Glacier, howled across the glacial plain and then screamed on out to sea.

  Okay.  Flexibility.  Plan B.  Cruise by two former whaling stations in the area, Leith and Husvik and then check the conditions at Stromness, our landing site that was planned for the afternoon.  Stromness blew us away too.  Hmmmm.  Katabatics are very localized and sometimes somewhat brief.  More flexibility.  Back to Fortuna in the late morning.  Phew.  Calm seas. Sunshine.  Brilliant decision!
By 11:30 landing operations were underway and there to greet us was an unending, waddling, trumpeting band of King Penguins.  Throngs of Antarctic Fur Seal pups cavorted in the sea, on the beach, in melt water pools, on the glacial plain, in the tussock, actually... everywhere.  Many of the pups were curious.  If I sat quietly they would timidly approach and then sniff my boot or touch my bare hand with their nose.  I will never wash my hand again.  Other pups would attempt charges that were all bluster and bluff.  It was a bit like being threatened by a Chihuahua. A Chihuahua with very large flat feet.  Many adult female fur seals lay about.  Some were nursing their chubby pups.

A memorable walk along the beach and out across the glacial plain brought us to the King penguin colony. Their bugling calls echoed off the mountain walls.  Chicks at every stage of deveopment, from egg to first moult, were abundant.  Reindeer roamed amongst the penguins.  How bizarre.

It was hard to tear ourselves away from this landing, to leave this South Georgia Fairyland and go back to the ship.

Once back on board it seemed strange that the ship wasn't moving. We were getting used to heavy seas. But not to worry.  The seas built up again quickly.  The ship is now pitching with a little rolling and some slamming.  We are plowing into westerly winds and waves.  As  my keyboard skitters across the desk, I see that things are back to normal.