Weather: overcast and rainy during the morning, clearing, but still cloudy during the afternoon
Air Temperature: 4,2° C
Pressure: 993 hPa
Wind: 5,9 kph during the afternoon
Although an early morning had not been planned for me –I was not going to be one of the “Shackleton Hikers”- several messages broadcasted into the suite made me contemplate, albeit only very briefly, a hearty breakfast at 05:30.
60 (sixty!) hikers had signed up and were ready to start at around 6 o’clock. Juan was going to lead the group, accompanied by Aiello, Luke, and Jarda. It was cloudy and wet, but the trail from Fortuna Bay to Stromness was known and GPS-dates backed the hikers.
For those wanting to see the waterfall across which Shackleton, Crean and Worsley had descended towards Stromness, breakfast was served until 8 o’clock. The Prince Albert II was being repositioned by Captain Golubev and anchored in front of the former whaling station of Stromness.
Our landing-site was some 200 meters away from the remains of the station, close to the propellers left behind after Stromness had been abandoned some 50 years ago. There seemed to be less fur seals than at my last visit possibly because of the lack of Krill during the former season.
The area surrounding the station was quite muddy and wet, and as a group of moulting King Penguins stood not too far from the 200 meter boundary-markers, we decided to do a little detour on our way to the waterfall.
I took the first 19 guests, and off we went past fur seals and a small reindeer herd towards the end of the valley. The 2,2 km were covered in 45 minutes. Most of the walk was alongside the stream coming from the waterfall. Two-thirds towards our final destination we met the first of the hikers –they by now had walked for some three hours… Close to 30 of our guests made the walk to the base of the fall.
It was still raining when we left Stromness. Robin had indicated that the afternoon would be an “Expedition Afternoon”. Wind, weather and swell would determine what landing site would work best for our activities. A scout-boat had been sent out and other ships in South Georgia consulted to see what would be possible. A number of options had to be discarded as the swell was too strong.
Eventually Cumberland Bay was selected and Robin called for a Recap & Briefing at 2 p.m. Seals, storm-petrels, Antarctic crust, and reindeer were covered by Aiello, Ken, Juan and Claudia, while I talked about Shackleton’s hike and its connection to Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic stamp issues. There even is a South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands stamp with moai from Easter Island!!
Robin explained what was expected for the afternoon: two Zodiac-cruises towards the Neumeyer Glacier. Tomorrow we would be offering an even longer and more strenuous hike than the one done today. It would be from Godthul to Sandebugte, with a length of close to 8 km.
The distance from the Prince Albert II to the front of the glacier was such that the smaller Mark V Zodiacs had only 6 guests each, while the Mark VI took a maximum of 13 guests. This way they could be faster and all guests had more space in their Zodiacs.
The second group came back shortly after 6 o’clock. Among other interesting things, a calving of the glacier and a leopard-seal on an ice floe were seen. Ken, our “Kenadian” ornithologist, came back smiling, ready to go home as he had seen what he come to see in Antarctica: several Snow-Petrels, one of them flying by very close! Guests then had the opportunity to watch the documentary “Extreme Ice”.
Dinner was, as was to be expected, again causing serious conflicts with several tempting choices for appetizers, intermezzos and entrees –not to mention the calorie-free desserts!
The Panorama Lounge had to contend with fewer visitors than normal, but we would have a few more sea-days (and nights) during which all the different hot drinks, cold drinks, short drinks and long drinks could be sampled without the interference of an early morning landing…. In the meantime Captain Golubev had taken the Prince Albert II to the Godthul anchorage, ready for tomorrow’s visit and the long hike.