Day 10&11, wow amazing!

Running the gauntlet and then walking the last 6km of the Shackleton trail
The past few days have been amazing. South Georgia has treated us ever so kind! Blue skies, big massif lenticularis clouds over the glaciers and jagged edged mountain ridges. What a sight! From morning till evening, there is always something to see or do or hear!

After Prince Olaf Harbour, we set off for Fortuna Bay, where we could start the hike known best as being the last 6km of the massive struggle for survival that Shackleton and his two men, Crean and Worsley, had to face when they arrived on South Georgia. Their boat, the James Caird, was left on the South side of South Georgia, as they made their way over a glacier and into Fortuna Bay. Here they passed along the beach and then went up the hills again, to get to Stromness. At that time and age, a thriving whale processing factory and small town of workers. Here they would get help from a whaler, to rescue the men, still stuck on Elephant Island.

But that book has been written by many others, we just did the last 6 km of the hike. We landed on a beach now full of Fur Seal, back in 1916, this would not have been the case, as many seals had been killed for their furs. But the seals don’t seem to be scared of us, we are, on the other hand, rather impressed by them! When we arrive, they make a certain sound between a his and a moan, meaning “no closer”. We try and pass between them, some get nervous and move towards us.
No eye contact and keeping calm, we move between them, trying not to disturb neither the big males or the small cubs (they are fierce!). Tracey-Ann laughingly said, as we were high up on the hill, it is like running the gauntlet!
Once away from the beach we made our way over a small river, onto a hill covered by small piece of slate. The beautiful rusty colors in the stone were mesmerizing! We drank water from Crean Lake. We then walked on finding ourselves at some of the best look out spots and taking breathers in between, saying we were happy we had lunch before setting off, because this would be extremely demanding on an empty stomach. Like the men had to do after leaving their boat behind.

As we started our path down again of the hill, we got a perfect view of Stromness harbour and the whaling station. The climb down was steep and shale ridden, but we made it and then started the challenge. Festuca grassland and mire and bogs! We had a map, but were also obliged to follow the trail so as not to damage the mosses and possible burrows of Diving Petrels. But we could not really distinguish any trail. Nature had covered that up! We found old footsteps, from a few days old and started to follow them, making our way to a riverbed and then following this. Here we found the path and here we found King Penguin and a Gentoo Penguin Rookery. Amazing animals. The Tecla had sailed into the bay and as we made our way to the shore (Stromness is off limits) we were once again faced with our gauntlet. Here we found that there were a few Elephant seals in between, who are way more relaxed and only look at you with their massive, big eyes. We then found that walking from Elephant Seal to Elephant Seal, helped make our passage through a lot easier, the fur seal don’t come too close to the Elephant Seals! The dinghy arrived at the beach, we had one more look at the small furry face of a fur seal pup and went back on board. As the anchorage at Stromness can be foul, we went to one bay over, Husavik. Here we had a small drink to warm us up, a Shackleton whiskey just for this occasion.

That night another hike to the grave site of Husavik and a look from a distance to the whaling station there.

Next morning we were off for Grytvikken. Looking at the weather reports, we would set sail that evening, so we would try and moor along side the jetty in Grytvikken and then make the most of our time.
But before we got to the habour we were surrounded by humpbackwhales, coming close to the ship and then diving deep. It was a thrill to watch.

In Grytvikken we were first checked by the officials of the South Georgia Government on our Bio security. A look around the ship and our rat traps, then an audit with the captain and a check of our actual proceedings, before happily giving us permission to visit Grytvikken. We got a tour of the museum, went to the post office and visited the grave of Shackleton. Walking among the old whaling station and thinking about what it was actually made for, makes you think why we would ever do that. Such amazing animals, slaughtered, hauled out and cut into small pieces to boil, all within 20 minutes. Over 175.000 whales were processed and taken from South Georgian waters. Until there were hardly any left. And then when we look out over the ocean now, now that the island has been given back to nature, there are spouts of whales everywhere! Fur seals dance around in the water and rule this island, even in Grytvikken! Penguins are everywhere and all of them thrive.  What it can be to give back.

But we had to say our goodbye’s and make our way South!
The first night was a mess, with lots of locally influenced strong winds, coming down the glaciers, building up boiling waters in front of them. It took us until the morning to clear the island. Now we are left with no wind, which means, we make good headway towards Antarctica under engine. All is well. South Georgia was amazing!

Photo Jonathan Poblete 2019/20
Simon Salisbury plain

One Response to “Day 10&11, wow amazing!

  • Johan Jansen
    1 year ago

    Hi All, We are following your log book from day 1. What a fantastic journey. It’s like another world. Stay safe. We can’t wait to see the photos. Merry Christmas to everyone on broad. Sending our love especially to Tracy Ann from Johan & Jana in the UK. Xx

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