|Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and Antarctica - 2010
A Photographic Journal
November 29, 2010 - Whistle Cove, Stromness and Grytviken, South Georgia Island
|Whistle Cove, Fortuna Bay. Up at 3:45 AM for a 4:15 PM zodiac ride to the cave at Whistle Cove. Used by sealers, it's surprisingly small. The only new critter at Whistle Cove was a herd of caribou, formerly reindeer, transplanted here to feed sealers, whalers and would-be settlers. The grass only grows to about 300 vertical feet here, and the risk of a disaster like St. Matthews Island is obvious. King Penguins, Southern Fur Seals, Elephant Seals and Antarctic Terns in numbers. The rookery for the King Penguins is 2 miles or so up towards the glacier; I got a photo but only got about half way there.
On the walk back to the zodiac landing, a juvenile delinquent fur seal ("Furrie" in guide Pierre's vernacular) made a bluff charge at one of the older, slower ladies. Instead of confronting the guy, she tried to run away, fell and broke her arm. Laying there on the ground she was helpless, the punk Furrie started towards her. I stuck my tripod in the kid's face, but by that time the episode had attracted a couple of bulls. A few of us were able to keep the seals away as the staff arrived to help the woman. There were surprisingly feeble protocols in place, but they did eventually get her to a raft and to the treatment room on the ship.
Stromness. An abandoned, decaying whaling station, closed to all access, it's the exit point for Shackleton's famous crossing of the spine of South Georgia. I walked about 1.3 miles up the river valley, climbed some lateral moraines on the left bank and found both Brown Skua nests and a small colony of Gentoo Penguins with very young chicks. Decent photos. As much as any place I've been the feeling of immensity is very strong there. And it was very nie to get away, if only for a few minutes, frm the other 104 visitors.
Grytviken. The administrative capital of South Georgia (summers only) and a research center. It's located in a spectacular drowned cirque. It's also the home of the largest (?) of the whale, seal and penguin, land-based processing facilities on South Georgia. 175,000 whales were sacrificed here; 41,000 Blue Whales alone. Maybe it's my imagination, but there's a sense of sadness here. It's been partially refurbished, and a dozen good explanatory signs erected. Wandered through, trying to capture a sense of what it is. Also visited and toasted Ernest Shackleton's grave. And a Bird the Boonies hat photo. The place is mournful, though.
The boat hosted a barbecue for the government staff, researchers, South Georgia Heritage Trust folks and other hangers-on in South Georgia. The party is still going on as I type.
Simon - the ornithologist and marine mammal specialist - says that the early reports from the bays of South Georgia said they were thick with whales. They are empty now. So it may not just be my imagination.