Monday, 26 December 2011

Fortuna Bay, Shackleton walk, Stromness

On May 20th, 1916, Ernest Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley, arrived at Stromness whaling station after a 36 hours strenuous hike from King Haakon Bay. The first crossing of South Georgia was the last chapter of the Endurance expedition, a dramatic voyage of exploration that ended up as one of the greatest adventures of the Heroic Age. Shackleton did the hike ninety six years ago and we repeated it today. Not all, of course, but the last five kilometers, the distance between Fortuna Bay and the old Norwegian whaling station of Stromness.
In Fortuna, a sheltered bay in the northern coast of South Georgia, we enjoyed ideal conditions for landing, with no swell, no wind, and no precipitation. An amazing walk through hundreds of territorial fur seals lying on the beach was the starter for what was coming next: a spectacular colony of more than seven thousand pairs of King Penguins packed together at the foot of cliff.
After the landing, MV Fram departed for Stromness, leaving ashore the passengers that had signed up for the hike. An easy walk along a gentle slope up to Crean Lake, three hundred meters above sea level, were followed by mostly flat terrain till a small ridge perched above Stromness valley. A short but very steep descent to the foot of the valley and we made it! Christmas day 2011 will be remembered by all as the day in which we completed the last stretch of a legendary expedition.
MV Fram was waiting for us by the whaling station and with it our fellow passengers that decided to sail with the ship. More king penguins, more fur seals and more elephant seals set in front of the decaying remains of the whaling station and the day was over. We are now at anchor at Cumberland Bay. Shackleton is in our minds. Tomorrow, at Grytviken, we will close his story.