Quite a few years since my visit. (1982) I visited the South Atlantic aboard HMS Yarmouth during the Falkland's war and was rewarded with a visit to the whaling station at Gritviken. We called in en route to South Thule to remove a contingent of Argentinian's who were placed under arrest and taken to Port Stanley. The Whaling station was totally abandoned. So much so that there were still newspapers lying around from the fifties (I think) and my friend found a pile of old news reels. He said a particular reel covered a visit by Churchill to South Georgia. True or not I don't know. The dormitories looked as though they had been vacated at a whim with quite a few possessions had been left behind. The laboratories were fully equipped with test tubes and chemicals etc. I can remember a few old gun installations from a previous age pointing out to sea. The wild life was very tame and not afraid of mankind. We could freely walk amongst the penguins and sea elephants etc without too much concern from the natives. In the limited time ashore, I climbed up a mountainside that overlooked Gritviken and it's bay and managed to get quite sunburnt in doing so. Quite strange considering the climate and latitude.
Our trip to South Georgia was spread over a period of about a week and was done on the Polar Pioneer with Aurora Expeditions of Sydney Australia. The highlight of the trip to these remote islands is the abundance of Penguins (total of 10 Million on the islands) Seals (incredible in their abundance and variety of species) birds, whales and dolphins.
Snow capped mountains and towering glaciers flowing into the sea make this a most wonderful place and well worth the cost, tine and discomfort in getting there.
There is also a small museum and souveneir shop run by a handful of scientists who live in 6 month postings at Grytviken station.
I could only see a few King Penguins, mainly on the rocky islands opposite Prion Island, probably resting on their way to the main colonies further south. Here definitely the Gentoo Penguin was in larger numbers.
Here on Prion Island some 2000 Gentoo Penguins have created their colony. The colony is situated high above the ground on a rocky cliff. The penguins would arrive these areas from the south end of the landing beach, plodding up a narrow rock gully through dense tussac.
In this extreme climate very little vegetation grows. The islands do not have a single tree, yet within the short summers many species adapted to this harsh environment. One can find 125 species of mosses, 85 liverworts and 200 of lichens.
I suppose as in human life also within penguin colonies there are handicapped penguins. Sitting on the beach at Gold Harbour I encountered this penguin who very brave was marching up and down the beach with sheer determination.
On the post where I was to work during the day, assisting our troop up along the slippery and muddy pathway I heard some noises from the side. I realized that about a meter away a seal was hiding with her young one. Both the adult and the young were seemingly comfortable with my presence since young started feeding off the mother. Another incredible highlight of my stay in South Georgia!!
Arriving on Prion Island was like arriving in a kindergarten for seals. Everywhere one would find young seals, some a few days old. Many times the seals were left behind as the mother was hunting for food.
Albatrosses nest in union, as the one part of the pair is incubating the egg the other partner is one the way somewhere in search of food. The wandering albatrosses are one of the few species that also breed during the southern winter. Their chick rearing period is an average of 278 days!!
Since Prion Island is a breeding island many juvenile albatrosses venture around. It is a funny yet amazing sight when these young birds train their wings and try to fly. On some occasion the bird would make a crash landing. These chicks only get fed on an average every five days while the parents are venturing around the South Atlantic in search for food.
The island is an important breeding ground for wandering albatrosses, a massive bird that is an endangered species. The birds can be up to 10 kg heavy and have a wingspan of over 3 meters. An amazing fact is that most birds pair for life. Some of the albatrosses are reported to be travelling more then 7500 km in less then two weeks with speed over short distances of up to 135 km/h!!
Prion Island is a very special island, and rarely visited except as part of a scientific expedition. The island lies in the Bay of Isles towards the west end of South Georgia's northeast coast. It is a site of high environmental sensitivity and exceptional conservation value. An absolutely amazing island with many attractions!
Another glacier within Fortuna Bay also carries a very German name - the Neumayer Glacier, though the mountains behind the glaciers are the Three Brothers, Larssen Peak and Marikoppa, giving a good impression of the various nationalities that were involved to give towns, mountains and glaciers names within South Georgia.
As in other parts of South Georgia also Fortuna Island has got various colonies of seals and penguins. Entering the bay one could hear the noises coming from the shore, and the sea was like a highway of penguins and seals swimming from one side to the other.
Fortuna Bay is to be entered between Cape Best and Cape Robertson on the central north coast, the bay itself is a 6 km long fjord leading to the heart of South Georgia's rugged interior. Sadly on our arrival the weather had changed from a sunny day to a misty day. Part of travel in South Georgia, the weather can change within minutes.
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