Sunday, 4 March 2012

Wonderful South Georgia Island

Entering Drygalski Fjord
Photo by Anke Timmerberg 
Everyone was up and on-deck at 0800 as we rounded Cape Disappointment and entered Drygalski Fjord. We were very fortunate as the skies were clear and we could see the high and sharp mountain peaks in the distance
Nearby was Cape Disappointment, this name given by Captain Cook that reflected his mood when he realized that the land he had been sailing along was an island and not the northern tip of the Great Southern Continent that he had been sent to chart.

Drygalski Fjord is a classic fjord: straight with a U-shaped valley having nearly vertical rock-wall sides and a flat bottom. The rocks on the northern side were originally part of the continent of Gondwanaland. While the southern side rocks are younger volcanic lava formations. As we left the fjord, on the few small north-facing areas we saw green patches of tussock grass and fescue. More green that we have seen since leaving Beagle Channel for Antarctica so long ago.

Albatross off the eastern coast of South Georgia Island
Photo by Anke Timmerberg
The Fram motored northward in fog but it burned off as we entered Cumberland bay and anchored at Grytviken. This area is a natural wonderland with the king, rock-hopper and gentoo penguins, plus an active community of young fur and elephant seals. In addition the history is everywhere, from the cemetery dominated by the markers at the graves of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Wild, to the old whaling station.

Grytviken and the Fram
photo by Anke Timerberg
You can look at the machinery for cutting whales and the boilers for cooking out the whale oil and the storage tanks for storing the oil prior to shipment, but it is hard to imagine the intensity of the activity that took place here until the whaling ceased in 1965. The whaling stations of South Georgia processed 175,250 whales between 1904 and 1965. There are other man-made attractions at Grytviken, one is the boat shed with the replica of the covered lifeboat the “James Caird” that Frank Worsley navigated to South Georgia with Shackleton and 4 others. There is also the museum with numerous displays inside the building and in front of the building there are harpoon guns, claws for pulling whales ashore by their tails and saws for cutting whale bones. Last but not least we visited the museum store where we purchased shirts and hats to remind us of this wonderful day at South Georgia Island.
Young elephant seal
Photo by Anke Timmerberg