Sunny blue sky and warm temperature received us as the Prince Albert II sailed this morning into the bay of Stromness. This time, disembarkation didn’t start that early as on our first landing here on South Georgia. As usual, a scout boat was sent out to clear the beach and this morning the scout team was of true importance. Hundreds of male Fur seals were lying scattered around on the beach, each of them defending their territory. It took some effort to clear a pass through the fur seals from the shoreside back to the plain that leads to the waterfall where Shackleton passed by during his historical walk, and which was our goal this morning.
After my colleagues and myself had cleared a small stripe on the beach, disembarkation started. An alpine scene surrounds the old whaling station, high snow-capped mountains, green valleys and a clear water stream making its way to the beach… that’s Stromness. Our guests were just amazed by the beauty of the landscape. The excursion took the guests along the valley back to the waterfall, which covered the last two km of the Shackelton’s walk.
On the way they could observe not only very aggressive fur seal males but also Elephant seals on the beach, herds of reindeers, Antarctic Terns nesting sites and of course Gentoo and King Penguins as well as Skuas and Giant Petrels.
From the botany point of view, we were early in the season and plants were flowering like the chickweed and Dandelion, both introduced here in South Georgia.
Victoria Salem our historian on board, gave a short introduction, just beyond the landing point, about the history of the whaling station and then the guests went on to do the hike. One hour 45 minutes of moderate hike in a beautiful landscape gave our guests really an excellent impression how beautiful this island in the south Atlantic can be.
After a short repositioning of the ship into the Cumberland Bay, our second landing was at the old whaling station, nowadays the administrative and research center of Grytviken. The first part of our excursion was a visit to Sir Ernest Shackelton’s grave, where again our historian Victoria Salem gave a short talk about his life and a toast to this famous Antarctic explorer. From there we made our way over to the open air museum of the whaling station and museum of South Georgia. As there is a post office in Grytviken, our guests had also the opportunity to send postcards home. A visit to the museum gave a short overview about the history of and nature on this island.
At 4 o’clock, a strenuous hike started from the church up into the mountains beyond Grytviken over to Maiviken. Only about 30 guests joined the hike as our Expedition Leader announced it was strenuous and lasted approximately three hours. The landscape was amazing: snowcapped mountains and between them Mount Paget, the highest mountain of South Georgia, green river valleys and rough ridges were the scenery along the path. On the other bay the walk reached a beautiful lake with a small hut on its shoreside with a fascinating view towards Maiviken.
Back to the shore side, some of our guests were really tired but obviously very happy after a day like this on South Georgia.
Back on board again, this was still not the end of our expedition day. In a short briefing Expedition Leader Conrad Combrink gave an overview on the program for tomorrow. Five guests from the government and research station of Grytviken talked about advances in environmentally friendly fishing and a program to exterminate the introduced rats, which have become a serious problem for the birdlife on this island.
Finally an excellent dinner in The Restaurant concluded a really exciting expedition day on South Georgia.