I am a trainee in the expedition team and this is my first trip with Fram. I have an education in nature conservation and have some experience in kayak guiding. So far the trip has been very educational, with a lot of interesting lectures while having sea days and many knowledgeable people to tell what we see on shore both historical, geographical and wildlife. My main reason to come here was the wildlife. I have seen many documentaries from Antarctica and the islands nearby, and the scenery and wildlife are so beautiful. The fact is that it is even more beautiful in real life. Our days in South Georgia were a little bit foggy, but when leaving we could see these steep mountains dressed with snow.
My first meeting with penguins was very special for me. At New Island in Falklands we visited a colony of rockhopper penguins. It was so nice to sit and watch them just a few meters away, how they were bounding and making nests without noticing all the people watching. They were not disturbed by us at all, as long as we kept some meters distance. One penguin approached me and almost walked on my shoe to get its stone for the nest. And that applies to most wildlife down here, they are not afraid of people and some birds and seals are so curious, like these king penguins at Fortuna Bay.
What I was most amazed was the size of the male elephant seals. I knew they were big, but in real life they are huge! They can have a length up to 4,5 meters and weigh around 4000kg! You do not want to argue with them! When kayaking in Grytviken (South Georgia) we met them in the sea and one came up to look at the other guide Ralf just a meter away from him. I was a little bit nervous, but he just watched for a while and swam away.
Before I came here, I had heard a lot of what the intense whaling had done to the whale stocks and almost made some species instinct. Introduced species from the whaling period are still doing a lot of damage to the fragile wildlife. Rats in South Georgia made some parts of the islands free from certain birds because they eat the eggs and chicks. In Falkland you have gorse, planted by people living there earlier. It is a beautiful bush with yellow flowers, which smell wonderful. So I can really understand why they wanted to take them with them. Now gorse had spread to large areas and by that excluding the native vegetation. So to avoid taking seeds, bacterial, virus on shore everybody have to clean their equipment properly. That warms the heart of a conservation biologist.