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Category Archives: St Andrews bay
Today we had another cracker of a day in South Georgia with a landing at Ocean Harbour with a long walk over rolling green fields with reindeers streaming past. It’s lovely to watch the reindeer floating over the rough-hewn landscape of the island but also a bit of a startling reminder that humans have changed the face of this jewel forever – the reindeers along with rats and mice and other invasive species are creating havoc with the natural order of things here and really should be removed. Certainly they add a touch of wonder to the island but at the end of the day they really don’t belong.
After Ocean Harbour we sailed around to St Andrews Bay which is home to the largest King Penguin colony on the planet… over 600 000 penguins are in residence here and they create a clamour and a smell and a visual feast that really has to be seen to understand. The landing is an assault on all senses and I always leave the bay with a sense of wonder at the vibrancy of life down here in the Southern latitudes. This time I had an extra sense of wonder instilled by the violent winds rolling off the glacier above the colony – we landed in 35knts of wind which is a bit hard under any conditions, but as the afternoon wore on the wind steadily rose until the maximum gusts of 94 knts started pushing the zodiacs around little toys. I drove into blinding wind-blown spume for two hours, landed on beaches I couldn’t see due to the sand blowing into my eyes and ended up with one small dry patch located somewhere behind my left knee … until yet another wave crashed over and ensured that I was utterly soaked from head to foot.
I limped back to the ship at the end of the day feeling cold, exhausted and physically sore … but with a huge grin on my face none the less …
It’s been a fantastic visit to South Georgia. In a part of the world renowned for savage weather we have had day after day of calm waters and uninterrupted opportunities to visit probably the most spectacular place on the planet. As I write the heavens are lit up in a brilliant sunset of pink and orange hanging above jagged mountains and glaciers and the sound of fur seals calling and mewing can be heard resounding over the still waters. Yesterday the highlight of the day was standing up to my waist in a still pool while a tussling playful group of over thirty seal pups played and twisted in the clear water. And after I’d been there a while they decided to include me in their game with one particularly brave fellow showing off to his mates by swimming between my legs again and again. At this age they are just like puppies… unfortunately in a couple of years they will be staking out a patch on the beach and tearing apart anyone silly enough to enter their zone. For now however its all fun and games.
And today … the highlight was St Andrews bay which is the largest king penguin colony on the island. Standing on a moraine ridge you have tens of thousands of birds filling the valley so that the landscape is literally formed my a seething mass of colourful birds. As a setting they make it one of the most remarkable sights in the world. As individuals, the penguins show a grace and curiosity that is humbling. Laying on the beach while a dozen penguins gather around and gently probe this strange alien apparition with their bills instils you with a new sense of oneness with this fantastic place.