Day 8 |
Jan 20, 2012

Stromness and Grytviken

By Shoshanah Jacobs, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 54o 16’ S, 036o 28’ W
Air Temperature: 6.5o C
Pressure: 1001 HPa
Wind: 20 km / hour
Weather: Calm with periods of sun

This day was another fully loaded day of activity. It began with an early morning wake up and the fastest breakfast that I have ever eaten. We changed into our hiking gear and were whisked away to the shore to await the guests that would join us on the famous Shackleton Hike across the peninsula to Stromness. We could not have asked for better weather. Not too hot, with no wind, periods of sun, and a small group of 50 guests. The walk up was a bit steeper than the last time as we had decided to try out a different route. It was great to get a bit more exercise and it was also a slightly shorter route to the top. The footing below us changed as we gained altitude. We crossed out of the tussock grass quite quickly, then we traipsed across grassy mossy patches, then the cold black lichen and then, finally, only rocks remained under foot. By this time we were at Cream Lake, named after the first man to fall into it! Our Historian, Peter, filled us in on the significance of the walk that we were taking. He told us about Shackleton’s historic trek across South Georgia and how his incredible two-year journey had finally ended here.

We got to the top of the pass and gathered for a group photo. Peter ended the story of Shackleton just as the Silver Explorer sounded the horn welcoming all of us to the Stromness side of the peninsula. But the hardest part was not over. The descent can actually be much more strenuous than the climb. But Juan, our Geologist and walk leader, picked an excellent route and we were at the base of Shackleton’s waterfall before I knew it!

We hung out there, asking Peter some questions, chatting with friends, enjoying the sun, as we met up with the guests that had landed at the Stromness Station and made their way towards us from the other side.

We wandered slowly back to the beach, passed by some reindeer and Gentoo Penguins, and returned to the Silver Explorer for a much deserved lunch.

A short navigation brought us into the protected bay at King Edward Point in front of Grytviken Station. Also an old whaling station now abandoned, this site has been carefully preserved. It is also the site of Shackleton’s grave in amongst the graves of whalers that had lost their lives here in this harsh and isolated place. Our first order of business was to take one of the ship’s ropes across to land to try to secure it there and minimize the swing of the ship on the anchor. KEP isn’t the best place to anchor. But the wind was such that the rope did not help and so we hoisted it rather quickly and continued on with our activities. We landed our guests at the cemetery and I hear that Peter’s toast was lovely.

Then I had a few minutes to wander around on my own and I took advantage of this! But very soon it was time to guide our guests along the gravel road from the museum to the research station and out to Shackleton’s memorial cross. It was a perfect day still and the walk was lovely. The view from the cross was spectacular and I took a moment to settle down on the bench overlooking the bay.

Back on board we welcomed some of the team from KEP who gave us a presentation on the Rat Eradication Program that they were undergoing. It is the largest eradication program in the world and so far, appears to be quite successful. Only time will tell of course, but their ambition and enthusiasm has led them to think that they can eradicate all the rats in South Georgia and they were here to tell us about it and encourage us to sponsor their program. And indeed we did!

It was an incredibly busy day but full of wonderful weather, scenery, and experiences.