Monday, February 24, 2014

South Georgia day 2 - Stromness and Grytviken

From our anchorage in Fortuna Bay there was an optional hike across a small section of the walk completed by Ernest Shackleton on his epic journey to seek rescue for his trapped men.  Those who opted not to do the walk (including me as I wanted to see more of the sea life) stayed on the boat which then headed for the whaling station at Stromness.  We'd weighed anchor when a message came that one of the walkers had changed their minds.  We had to go back and re-anchor and then wait nearly 90 minutes for them to make their way back down and be retrieved, cue a lot of unhappy passengers and crew...

You can see the walkers making their way up here:


We finally got round to Stromness with again hastily adjusted plans, this time due to said passenger and their over-estimation of their ability to walk...

The weather was beautiful and the view dramatic:


You can't go into the whaling complex, this is one site where they are letting nature take its course, of course the seals don't know that:



Have I mentioned how cute the pups are?




As well as the fur seals there were Penguins, again including Gentoo Penguins:



And King Penguins, here in their 'catastrophic moult' a process whereby over roughly three weeks they replace all of their feathers in one go, while losing a lot of weight and no doubt feeling utterly miserable too:


From Stromness we set out to sea again headed for Grytviken, enjoying the landscape:


porpoising fur seals:


and the occasional whale sighting, I think I was the only one to see this Southern Right Wale, so called as it was the 'right' whale to kill, as it floated on the surface once killed and was easier to retrieve and process:


Glaciers:


The approach to Grytviken:














This is the most populous place on the Islands, with the former whaling station, two museums, the post office all adjacent to the graveyard of Ernest Shackleton and his right-hand man Frank Wild:


The expedition staff were serving a small measure of Irish whiskey to be consumed by the grave or shared with the grave, I found mine surprisingly pleasant.

The view back out into and around the bay was splendid:



We walked to the museum area, seeing our first Antarctic Terns:


Just as noisy as their Arctic Tern relatives and with a display similar to the Sandwich Tern:


The death factory at Grytviken is still haunting:


From various markings on the facilities you can see when they were checked and what was found in terms of residual blubber, engine oil, etc.  The vast quantities of whales killed in this way is humbling, many of the populations are still below 10-20% of what they were before this all started:


Some thankfully decaying whaling ships:


As far as I'm aware only Japan, Iceland and the USA undertake whaling these days.

On the shore more Elephant Seals, this one perked up for a while, had a yawn and then settled down again, managing to look quite snug:




One thing I noticed from the boat and land on this day was the various clouds forming over the mountains, so here to conclude day two in South Georgia a selection of landscapes and cloud formations.  It is a spectacularly beautiful place to visit:









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