Day 9 |
Jan 21, 2012

Gold Harbour and Cooper Bay, South Georgia

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: S 54º 47.5’, W 035º 48.3’
Weather: Partly cloudy
Air Temperature: 3 - 7 ºC
Sea Temperature: 3ºC
Pressure: 999.8 hPa
Wind: 10 - 15 knots

Gold Harbour is regarded by many of us in the expedition cruise industry as one of South Georgia’s most beautiful visitor sites. An amphitheatre of hanging glaciers and vertical cliffs rises straight out of the sea and the snow-covered peaks of Mt. Patterson create an unforgettable backdrop to an exceptional abundance of seabirds and seals. King penguins, Gentoo penguins, Fur seals and Elephant seals jostle for space on the beach as light-mantled albatrosses soar near the cliffs out towards Gold Head.

At 08:30 we started disembarkation; the weather was good with little wind and almost no swell. I could see the awe in the eyes of our guests as we approached the landing and caught glimpses of the elephant seals rearing up and going for each other’s necks with incredible force in their training fights.

Once ashore most of them spent a lot of time on the beach watching the elephant seals in their haul-out, they were quite active, providing a wonderful spectacle. Just uphill from where the elephant seals were hauled out, we offered a walk to a ridge, which provided great, elevated views of the whole harbour. Many of our guests went up and sat at the top of the hill for quite some time. Wonderful views indeed.

The third option available was to go check out the very large King penguin colony, which was set in a beautiful spot with vertical cliffs topped with hanging glaciers for background.

We came back on board for lunch and meanwhile the Silver Explorer sailed south to Cooper Bay.

Cooper Bay lies at the southeast extremity of the island. It is protected from the open ocean by nearby Cooper Island and enjoys a comparatively mild climate in the lee of the ice-clad summits of the Salvesen Range. There is a wealth of wildlife at this site, in a spectacular setting. The islands largest chinstrap colony is found here; gentoo and macaroni penguins dot the tussock slopes and there are plenty of fur seals on the beaches.

Just before we started our Zodiac cruise, as we were waiting on the Zodiacs to begin embarkation, Robin Aiello came on the radio saying “I have a chinstrap in my Zodiac!” It was very funny and rather cute to see this inquisitive little penguin walking around in Robin’s Zodiac. It took him/her a couple minutes to figure out how to get back out, but he/she eventually did. We then set out on two one and a half hour wonderful Zodiac cruises and we had a ball. We had great views of the macaronis and chinstraps, and the Antarctic fur seals -as always- were first-class entertainment.

Back on board we got together in The Theatre for Recap & Briefing, followed by another sumptuous dinner.

We said goodbye to South Georgia tonight, sad to leave the island behind, but very happy and grateful for having seen so many incredible things and to have had such consistently good weather. Antarctica, here we come!