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Day 7 |
Nov 16, 2010

Salisbury Plain, Prion Island, South Georgia

By Pete Clement, General Naturalist

Co-ordinates: S 54.03, W 37.19
Weather: Partly Cloudy, wind increased from 5kts to 30kts

This morning was planned to start early and I rolled out of bed at 4.30 am to get ready. When I arrived on the Bridge, the Prince Albert II was negotiating her way into the bay, there was a light wind just rippling the surface of the sea and it looked perfect for the planned landing on Salisbury Plain, in the Bay of Isles, South Georgia.

After a very quick early breakfast I was ready to join the rest of the Expedition Team and scout the landing site. Once we were in the Zodiacs, the full impact of the magnificent scenery and also the cold air hits you, and this quickly has you awake. The approach to the beach is such a sight with huge numbers of King Penguins assembled along the shore, as if they were waiting just for us. While being totally entranced by the penguin spectacle, we now had to focus our attention on the one of the other inhabitants of this beach, the Fur Seal. The strong musky odor of the seals dominates my sense of smell as I land. We need to be vigilant regarding the males, as they charge.

Once a path is clear and the seals are moved back, then it is on along the beach towards the main part of the colony where the breeding birds are. Along the way there are Southern Elephant seals. There are some smaller adult males, also some large male Elephant seals, these big guys are the largest seals in the world and grow to a length of 5 meters and can weigh as much as 5,000kg. Moving through the groups of King Penguins brings us to the main part of the colony, here the large chicks are in big groups and stand out because of their brown color. All too soon it is time to return to the Prince Albert II for lunch.

During lunch, the Prince Albert II made her way slowly up into Rosita Harbor. By this time the sun had come out and the wind that had come up earlier had decreased and it was a beautiful afternoon. In the true spirit of expedition cruising, Expedition Leader Conrad Combrink and Captain Peter Stahlberg came up with a plan to anchor in Rosita Harbour and let us take a hike ashore.

Once again it was into the Zodiacs and off to make a landing. The landing beach was covered with fur seals and it was with considerable effort that a path past these aggressive marine mammals was cleared to the back of the beach. Once clear of the seals it was a moderate climb that got steeper as we gained altitude until we reached a height of some 270 meters. Before leaving the top of the hill to come back down, a group photograph was taken. The trail back to the beach was back past the same nasty fur seals who had returned to the spots we had driven them off on our way up, so we had to convince them to move again. It was back onboard again and off to the objective for the day: Prion Island.

It is quite a few years since I have landed at Prion Island and it was exciting to be landing here again. There was the familiar advance through the ranks of fur seals all arranged on their territorial patches. There is now a wonderful boardwalk to access the upper part of the island where there are Wandering Albatross nests. At the nest sight there is a large chick that was about ten months old. A chick that is this old still relying on the parents to feed it, shows the demands that these offspring put upon the adults.

As the day came to an end, the sunlight coming through the clouds made for a great display of evening light. Returning to the comfort of Prince Albert II after a fabulous day in the Bay of Isles. This is one of the premier wildlife sites of the world and how wonderful to be able to visit it.

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