Day 9 |
Feb 28, 2010

Godthul And Grytviken, South Georgia

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: S 54º 16’ 48.4”, W 036º 30’ 21.6 “

Weather: Overcast in the morning, sunny in the afternoon

Air Temperature: 4ºC

Pressure: 1015 hPa

Wind: 5 knots

Today the Prince Albert II sailed into Godthul early in the morning. Outside there was a bit of a swell, but as we sailed into the bay, the conditions started to look more and more conducive for a good landing. And indeed we had one.

First we disembarked the guests that signed up for the Godthul – Sandebugten hike, a mountain trek that turned out to be a complete success. Shortly after they came ashore, about 30 guests set off with Stefan and Kara on a beautiful hike that would take them through tundra, hills, mountains plateaus, lakes and some spectacular alpine scenery. It took them about 4 hours to get across to Sandebugten in East Cumberland Bay, and they all got there extremely satisfied and in great spirits.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Expedition Team was ashore trying to make a plan B. Initially we wanted to take the rest of our guests to an elevated point where they could see a Gentoo penguin colony. However, the density of fur seals and elephant seals in the tussock grass on the path to the colony was complicating things a bit. 

There was no way we could get the guests up to the point. Nonetheless, a plan B was made and it worked out just fine. Expedition Leader Robin West decided to split the guests into two groups. The first 35 came ashore for 45 minutes and had a chance to walk around the remains of a whaling ship that had been anchored in Godthul during the early part of the 20th century. Lots of whalebones and artifacts from the whaling era were to be seen as well as a wide array of wildlife, which included Antarctic Fur Seals, Southern Elephant Seals, Gentoo and King penguins, Kelp Gulls, Skuas, Wilsons Storm Petrels and two very special birds endemic to the island – the South Georgia Shag and the South Georgia Pintail, the only carnivorous duck in the world. 

Meanwhile, the other 35 guests embarked on a Zodiac cruise to explore the rugged and kelp-ridden coastline of Godthul. Beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife made this a nice trip. Later on, we swapped groups so everyone had a chance to do the landing and the Zodiac cruise.

At 10h30, the Prince Albert II sailed for Sandebugten, where we picked up the brave hikers, who came on board for a well-deserved lunch. At 2:30 pm the sun was shining and the moment many Shackleton fans had been waiting for arrived. The chance to visit the grave of “The Boss”, Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton himself. 

At the cemetery, our onboard historian Peter Damisch offered the traditional toast and then everybody headed over to the station to see the historical remains of Grytviken, its church, museum, post office, and very importantly, its souvenir shop!! Grytviken had something for everyone, plus the sky cleared out and the sun shone. There were only smiles to be seen.

At 4:30 Will Wagstaff – our resident ornithologist – and myself led a walk to see the memorial cross offered to Shackleton by the crew of the Quest. It was a nice stroll along the shoreline that took us past King Edward Point and the British Antarctic Survey facilities to a fantastic viewpoint where the cross overlooks Cumberland Bay in all its grandeur. A few icebergs adorned the scene and it was indeed a sight to behold.  

By 6 pm everyone was onboard and at 6:45 we had our Recap & Briefing. Tomorrow should be an early start (6 am) so everyone retired early for a good night sleep.