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Tag Archives: Elephant Seal
Spent the day in South Georgia between Fortuna Bay, Stromness and Grytviken. Walked the last part of Shakleton’s momentous hike over the island, lost myself amidst hordes of fur seals on the beaches and spent hours watching baby elephant seals lounge on the beach and play amongst themselves. Was actually a long day with the weather showing it’s teeth with gale force winds and droving snow, but at the end of it all I am left with a huge grin and keep replaying moments of sheer joy as the throngs of wildlife native to this spectacular island played out their life within arm’s reach as I sat mesmerized on the beach. A few close encounters with angry fur seals showed me natures teeth (nothing like the charge of 200kg of angry seal to remind you that nature should be treated with respect), but all up I am left with a feeling of awe and a sorrow that the day has drawn to a close …then again, we have two more days in this paradise
In amidst a rolling sea we sighted the South Orkney Islands today and slowly made our way to Signy Island and a British research base. The zodiacs were unloaded and I drove in to the base, however, the trip over sent us a strongmessage. After a ten minute ride with green water crashing over the front of the boat we thought maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to unload passengers given the increasingly nasty weather. In the end I managed to touch the jetty on Signy Island, take a quick look at the elephant seals lounging on the beach, then waved a cheery farewell to the scientists onshore before turning tail and running back to the ship. Oh well … perhaps we’ll get to visit this remote outpost another time.
It has been a blazing hot day here in Antarctica with melt water streaming off glaciers and the sun beating relentlessly on our poor Antarctic suntans (i.e. white skin).We started the day in the Argentine Islands which are a complex maze of twisting passages and islands that are spectacular fun to drive through on a zodiac… and on the way there are several seasoned yachties with their yachts parked in out of the way coves amidst ice flows and piles of crabeater seals. Doubtlessly they have converged on the spot to sample the home distilled vodka of the nearby Vernadsky Station run by the Ukrainians. How I long to be down here on a day like this in Widdershins with Léonie by my side! But I guess being down here at all is not so bad at all! We finished the day with a long cruise on our little rubber boats in amidst the icebergs of Plenau Bay with elephant seals and Weddel seals on the beach and every ice flow crowded with crab eater seals and the occasional sinister form of a leopard seal contemplating which of the crabeaters will be its next meal. Now its time for my own meal but its hard to drag yourself away from the spectacular scenery passing by.
Today was a quick morning stop in Gold Harbour where the elephant seals have claimed the beach in a writing mass of bodies piled atop of each other. Grunts and bellows resound and startle the droves of king penguins and fur seals picking their way through the thrown of large inert blubber wallowing in filth and mud. With the sun beating down the ellies were particularly pungent as they dug into the mud and fling it upon their bodies to protect them from the suns burn. Leaving all this behind I lead a hike up a steep slope into the tussock plateau where the spectacular coastline of South Georgia unwinds below the sheer cliffs where albatross nest and glide out to sea on the unseen wind currents. Really is gold.
This morning we were surrounded by the same thick fog that has clung to us for days except this morning the silence of the fog was pierced by a cacophony of seal cries echoing off the sheer cliffs that peeked through the white mist. We have arrived at South Georgia Island! This is an absolutely incredible place… like nothing on earth. We started the day with a zodiac ride in Elsehul harbour were we cruised past a swarming mass of fur seals all stridently crying out and barking. Above us albatross wheeled through the mist and grey headed, black-brow and light mantled sooties perched amongst the tussocks above us on their delicate nests. Macaroni penguins charged down the hills into the surging waters and king penguins stood proudly in the their neat colonies on the smooth shingle beaches. Meanwhile giant petrels feasted on the carcasses of fallen elephant seals only feet from their comrades still lounging on the thick rafts of kelp washed ashore. The entire busy beach is also bathed in the peculiar chummy odor of fur seal which brands this as South Georgia.
This introduction was followed by a visit to Salisbury Plains, home to the second largest king penguin colony in the world. Picture tens of thousands of stately penguins splashed with gorgeous colours of sunset orange spilling out from the beach into the green tussock. At the base of the colony juvenile kings in their scruffy coats of brown down wait patiently for a feed while occasionally engaging in a detailed investigation of a passing tourist. Stopping to gently mouth a proffered finger. Unfortunately to get to the colony you have to run the gauntlet of grumpy fur seals who have missed out on the seasons breeding and are looking to take it out on the soft looking bipeds wandering around in a daze. Only a couple of close calls for me but 200 kg of angry seal is something to treat with respect!
It’s good to be back after two years!