When I was a small boy I became fascinated with the frozen continent of Antarctica. I had read many stories of the explorers Sir Douglas Mawson and Earnest Shackleton and the many species of birds and animals that call this frozen wilderness home. I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I would have the opportunity to go there.
Dreams of the frozen continent
My dreams came to reality when in January 2008 I was asked to join a 17-day expedition cruise to this magnificent part of the world.
The expedition began at the southerly tip of Argentina and included tours of the Falkland Is, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. The expedition concluded with a crossing of the infamous Drake’s Passage and arrival back at Argentina’s most southerly port of Ushuaia on Monday 21st January 2008.
This story focuses on a wild life experience at Gold Harbour on the south east coast of South Georgia.
Gold Harbour – South Georgia
The ship dropped anchor at Gold Harbour very early on the morning of 13th January. After the wildlife briefing we received, all the passengers were very keen to board the zodiacs and get on shore.
As a wildlife lover and cinematographer I couldn’t wait to get there.
The site on arrival was absolutely amazing. The beach and sand dunes were literally covered with huge blubbery sub adult elephant seals, king penguins, Gentoo penguins and a small groups of fur seals. From the beach area across a flat tundra and to the base of cliffs (over 1km away) the scene was awe-inspiring, as there before me was mass of around 20,000 majestic king penguins.
Gold Harbour is a favored breeding and nesting ground for the King and Gentoo penguins. Part of the area is covered with Gentoo penguin nests and to see the King Penguins incubating their eggs by carrying them on top of their webbed feet and keeping them warm under folds of skin and fur was truly amazing.
I was also fascinated by the activities of the young male elephant seals that continually lunged at each other and slammed the bodies into each other. This activity was obviously tiring for every few minutes they would stop and collapse on the ground to restore their spent energy.
On one such occasion I was sitting on the pebbled ground filming the “play fighting” of two males when they stopped and collapsed with one falling in my direction its head resting a meter from me.
Needless to say I captured some great close up footage. The seal seemed to know he was being filmed for he lifted a flipper and commenced scratching his whiskers (just fantasizing as this is a normal behavior)
Reluctantly we had to leave this amazing place and re-board the zodiacs to return to the ship. Next stop the Deception Islands near the northern most point of the Antarctic Peninsula.
To follow are stories of our fantastic experiences while touring the Falkland Is, Fortuna Bay, Stromness Harbour and Grytviken (final resting place of Earnest Shackleton) on South Georgia.
These stories will be followed by stories of the cruise of the Antarctic Peninsula and the crossing of Drakes Passage back to Ushuaia.