Sunday, 13 November 2011

Back in time

Overnight we sailed to Maiviken, South Georgia, with a plan for hikers to walk from there to Grytviken, where we would land for the morning. However, nature got the better of us: small bergy-bits and growlers from the breakup of the nearby glacier filled Maiviken Harbour, and this together with a large swell made landing there impossible. So, some hikers went back to bed for well-earned rest and others enjoyed the amazing skies as we left the bay (note the lenticular clouds in this High Dynamic Range image!).

After breakfast we reached Grytviken and the ship cleared British Customs control. A representative of the South Georgia Heritage Trust then came on board to talk to us about the rat eradication program on-going on the island. Introduced rats are a serious threat to many S. Georgia bird species, not the least of which is the endemic South Georgia Pipit, the most southerly songbird in the world. We all found out how we can contribute to this extremely valuable project by sponsoring a hectare of S. Georgia to be cleared. Here’s the link: Sponsor-a-hectare

Grytviken is famous as the site of Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave and for the abandoned Norwegian whaling station established in 1904 by Capt. Larsen. The atmosphere in this incredible place is evocative and took us all back in time to days past when we relied on whale products for all sorts of things from fine oils to corset stays and food. The weather was positively 21st century however- balmy with temperatures reaching 16° by noon. No wonder South Georgia’s glaciers are shrinking at an alarming rate due to modern-day climate change.

The wind picked up through the Grytviken landing but were hardly felt it in the sheltered bay that Capt. Larsen picked for his whaling station. However, after we left and headed out into open sea, were were all reminded that the sea was below our ship!

 Next stop Antarctica!