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Day 10 Grytvikan, South Georgia

March 11, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

After the mind-blowing experience that was Stromness, we steamed onwards for a few hours and headed towards Grytvikan and King Edward Point, both of which nestle in Cumberland Bay East. The journey across was peppered with flocks of Cape Petrel, Giant Petrels and Black-browed Albatross. The odd Wandering and Grey-headed Albatross patrolled behind the boat, while White-chinned Petrels were obvious by their vast increase in numbers. We only saw a single Snow Petrel but it caused enough excitement to get the blood flowing faster....not that it needed to! On approach to King Edward Point (KEP), we could see the white cross on the headland and the roofs of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) KEP base. Civilisation. It was strange to see people walking along the shoreline. I was not sure I was happy to see it. In fact, I knew I was not happy to see it. I was enjoying being away from "civilisation". Currently nine BAS personnel overwinter at the KEP station, rising to around 18 in the austral summer. Two Government Officers (including the Governor) plus partners are stationed on KEP, overlapping by about three months during the busy winter fishing season. Summer staff from the Museum at Grytviken are also accommodated at KEP. The continued occupation of the station serves a political purpose as well: it helps to maintain British sovereignty against Argentina's claim for ownership of the territory.

MC__9876 view from GrytvikanMC__9876 view from Grytvikan

The approach to King Edward Point Bay. This looks across the Cumberland East Bay. 

Edward PointEdward Point

King Edward Point on the right, with the white cross visible. The buildings of the BAS KEP base are just visible, while the whalers graveyard, where Shackleton lies, is visible on the left and marked by a white picket fence.

GrytvikenGrytviken BAS KEP base on the right, with Grytvikan whaling station on the left and the spire of the Whalers Church visible over the BAS KEP base in the background.

As well as raising a glass of Jameson whiskey at the grave of that anglo-Irish explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, we also spent time exploring the now-safe Grytvikan whaling station. Remnants of the old chains used to haul the whales up the beach, the old boilers and oil storage facilities, and even the old soccer pitch is present. The Whalers Church has also been preserved. It was an interesting and historical visit. It also coincided with the best day of the trip; immaculate blue skies and calm seas. The residents said they had not seen this type weather in months. 

Grytikan Sea SpiritGrytikan Sea Spirit

The view across to the Sea Spirit from the shoreline where one can walk up to Shackleton's grave.

The bossThe boss

The Boss

MC__9973 Gyrtvikan ChurchMC__9973 Gyrtvikan Church

The Whalers Church, built in 1903.

MC__9976 Grytvikan FootballMC__9976 Grytvikan Football The Grytvikan soccer pitch where the Inter-Whaling Station Football and Sports tournaments were held. 

MC__9986 Oil DrumsMC__9986 Oil Drums

The oil drums

Whaler GrytvikanWhaler Grytvikan

The wreck of the whaling ship Petrel, complete with loaded harpoon at the bow. Non-plussed Elephant and Fur seals now rest peacefully here. 

After checking out the replica of the James Caird, checking out the museum, buying some souvenirs and posting some postcards from South Georgia Post Office, I popped back out to take it all in. The wildlife here was sparse compared to Stromness and Salisbury Plain. There were female and young male Elephant Seals hauled out on the land, as well as territory-holding Fur Seals. Antarctic Tern hunted along the shoreline, while the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross called mournfully from the cliff-tops. The odd King and Gentoo Penguins stood around, looking lost. A nice number of South Georgia Pintail flew in and quickly flew out again. It was calmer here, in amongst the human inhabitants. The wildlife not as numerous where man treads. 

Female ElephantFemale Elephant

A reseting female Elephant Seal.

MC009608 Fur SealMC009608 Fur Seal A pristine and healthy looking male Antarctic Fur Seal. The hair on this individual was very dry, which provided a great opportunity to see how thick the pelt on the species is. Quite spectacular. 

MC009641 King PenguinMC009641 King Penguin A King Penguin looking a bit injured. 

MC009657 Light-mantled SootyMC009657 Light-mantled Sooty

Light-mantled Sooty Albatross gliding over the bay. 

MC009755 Antarctic TernMC009755 Antarctic Tern

Antarctic Tern at rest.

MC009642 Antarctic TernMC009642 Antarctic Tern Antarctic Tern in flight.

After being brought to the Sea Spirit for dinner, I was delighted to have the pleasure of sitting with the Governor of the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI), and his wife, for dinner on the ship that evening. A very interesting way of life here. In fact, it is through their perseverance that the rat eradication program of South Georgia is doing so well (http://www.sght.org/sght-habitat-restoration-project). What we were told after dinner was that the Governor had been aboard the ship checking everyone's passport and stamped each one with the GSGSSI stamp! Pretty cool thing to have. After dinner, we were treated to some spectacular lenticular clouds over Cumberland East Bay. 

MC__0001 Grytvikan cloudsMC__0001 Grytvikan clouds Cumberland East Bay with lenticular clouds.

MC__0006 Grytvikan cloudsMC__0006 Grytvikan clouds Cumberland East Bay with lenticular clouds

Now halfway through the trip, I was feeling the effect of the long days working hard on deck looking for seabirds and eating way more than I should. Early to bed. Early to rise. I was becoming weary now and headed off to bed after a couple of bottles of beer with Jim and Peter in the bar. Tomorrow promised, weather permitting, to be epic.

 

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