Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands Trip Log (12 - 28 Dec 2017) – Tuesday, Dec 19

Tuesday, December 19: Expedition Day Stromness and Grytviken
January 2018

South Georgia is for all those who grew up dreaming of a Garden of Eden, where you walk among abundant and fearless wildlife, in a beautiful wilderness-an oasis of serenity in a world increasingly out of step with nature-Tim Carr, Antarctic Oasis, Under the spell of South Georgia.

Certainly the wildlife was unusually abundant and fearless during our first two landings yesterday, and we were surrounded by a veritable Garden of Eden. During the night we could feel the wind picking up. At 6am, Agustin, our wonderful Expedition Leader, announced on the PA system that wind prevented our proposed landings at Stromness. Thirty knots straight onto the bow, and a windswept sea makes a Zodiac operation untenable. Many guests raced out onto the decks to view this historic whaling station, and later ship repair yard. In the valley beyond, we could see the waterfall Shackleton, Crean and Worsley descended on May 20, 1916. His white dwelling to the left of the station remains intact. The Stromness shore whaling station began in 1912, and in 1931 whaling ceased-the station instead being used as a ship repair yard. The enormous chains, propellers and sheets of steel rusting away leave little doubt as to hard work required in ship repairs, especially to vessels used in whaling.

Suzana, Expedition Director, and Agustin immediately decided to head southwards to Godthul Harbour, with the intention of offering guests a Zodiac cruise. Despite a stiff breeze, the bay was calm enough to accommodate safe Zodiac cruising, and guests, all warmly dressed, massed to board the black, rubber inflatables. Plenty of Gentoo Penguins were seen, including a nesting colony, along with the usual birds and seals. Conspicuous were magnificent Kelp beds, with their long, strong trunks which form the basis of the ecosystem hereabouts. Many relics dating back to the whaling days litter the beaches, including whale bones. There seems to be no escaping this chapter in South Georgia's history.

Lunch in La Comete restaurant on Deck 6 was packed, everyone wanting to watch South Georgia sliding by in all her glory, as we head towards Grytviken. Grytviken means "Pot Cove" and is named after the sealers' tripots that were discovered here. The British later named it King Edward Cove. As a bay within the greater bay of Cumberland Bay, it is the best harbor in South Georgia, initially chosen by Norwegian Captain Carl Anton Larsen as the site of the first whaling station in Antarctic waters in 1904. In November 1904, Larsen arrived with a small fleet of ships to build a factory. Massive profits were made initially, but Grytviken and the other whaling stations were eventually forced to close since the whales had all but disappeared. One of the reasons Grytviken is the finest harbor on the island is its small size, protected on all sides by high mountains. Unfortunately the strong wind obliges our Captain to anchor outside of the small harbor, simply too risky to maneuver a vessel of this size in windy conditions within this tiny harbor. This creates a long Zodiac ride to the Museum, and/or cemetery where Shackleton and Wild are buried. Squalls of rain driving down off the mountains make for a typical South Georgia day- fine reminder of the generally calm, dry weather yesterday. Sarah Lurlock from the South Georgia Heritage Trust came on board at 2:00 p.m. to give our guests some fascinating insights into their programs on South Georgia.

Rob Caskie toasted Shackleton at his grave on Grytviken, before most guests hiked off up the steep hill to Gull Lake. The views make the hike and effort worthwhile, but the wind was howling up there. The afternoon was spent in the old Grytviken whaling station, museum, and Carr Museum with her James Caird replica lifeboat. Some took pleasure in ringing the church bells, others took a quiet moment to reflect upon this place and its history. Two very small sailing yachts were present in Grytviken-very hardy, experienced sailors only bring such small craft into the Southern Ocean. We assisted one with milk from our ship's kitchen-what a joy for them.

The wind however picked up considerably during the afternoon, becoming dangerous for the long Zodiac rides back to ‘Le Lyrial’. Eventually we asked guests to leave the site and head back to the ship, where the local Post Office sold First Day covers, postcards and stamps. A fun Recap and briefing session took place with Rob Caskie speaking about Wild and Shackleton's relationship, and eventual resting place alongside one another here.
Larry Hobbs answered questions on various matters, almost always humorously. Many guests have red windswept faces on exposure to wind, rain and hail today, but every one also brims with the realization of another incredible day on South Georgia. Gold Harbour and Drygalski Fjord await us tomorrow-can this get even better?

Click here to read 'Wednesday, December 20: Expedition day Gold Harbor and Drygalski Fjord'