On Feb 15, we woke up around 8AM and land ho – we had already stopped in Gold Harbour on South Georgia. It was wonderful to look out our window and see some green!
We also contemplated Shackleton seeing it for the first time, and then finding ourselves once again amazed that he had to cross the island by foot – it’s straight up!
Today we actually made it to breakfast, and they had some omelettes today. However, the omelettes turned out to be lackluster, no cheese! Really no cheese throughout the trip shockingly, other than the cheese plate. Go figure, maybe a British thing?
We arrived on Gold Harbour in South Georgia as a part of the second landing group around 10:30AM. There were king penguins (some of the largest!) as far as the eye could see, and we had previously been told by Rob that there were upwards of 200,000 breeding pairs on king penguins on the island. We didn’t have quite that many, but there was large colony nonetheless.
We also saw a lone elephant seal away from a bigger mound of them further from where we were allowed to go (probably for our safety). Besides that, there were fur seal pups bounding around playing, and one little tired guy who just wanted to be left alone to sleep, but kept getting bugged by the other pups.
It was a great change from the stark icy landscape of Antarctica, and overall much better animal viewing. I enjoyed the king penguins most of all across all the penguins we had seen, and even enjoyed their calling which sounded like a mix between NYE spinning noisemakers and a vuvuzela.
After coming back from our first South Georgia expedition, we had some lunch consisting of green pea soup to start, and then tagliatelle pasta with dill and bokchoy, but minus the salmon offering. We rarely ate meat on this trip, as it seemed somewhat wrong given the abundance of animal life we were connecting to.
Our second landing of the day was at Saint Andrews Bay, not to be confused with Saint Andrews golf course in Scotland, though this one was prettier albeit with more water and seal hazards to “play through”.
Saint Andrews Bay, South Georgia
It was a deceptively low and flat landing, and as we arrived we noticed thousands upon thousands of penguins off to the far right further than we’d be able to go, but we found that we were able to hike back into the interior a good ways. We enjoyed seeing some king penguins checking out the gear at the landing, and then started trekking.
Seals were lying everywhere in the grass, and enjoying their sweet seal dreams. We got tons of great viewings of fur seal pups, adults, penguins cooling themselves in a glacial melt river, and our first close viewing of elephant seals.
At one point towards the end of our hike as we looked upon the glacier and source of the river, there were many groups of elephant seals huddled together (some have posited that a group of elephant seals should actually maybe be called a stinkery of elephant seals!).
As we watched a cacophony of fart like noises continued to come from one after the other, which was quite comical and reminded me of the camp fire scene in Blazing Saddles. We thoroughly enjoyed the day and were coming to really love South Georgia.
That night for dinner, we decided to join up for dinner this night with some friends we had made on the ship, Bill and Lynn who were from outside of Toronto. We love making friends with Canadians, and find them to be such conscientious people, much better than us. We somewhat surprisingly got a bit into politics, comparing and contrasting Canada to the US, and touching on how each has handled its indigenous or First Nations (Canada’s term) peoples during modern times. Surprisingly to us, Bill thought Canada wasn’t doing nearly enough there, but that for us really showed how far behind the US was. The company was wonderful, the dinner less so. We had a lackluster asparagus and potato salad starter, and then moved to a bland green risotto with tarragon foam more asparagus and peas. Tonight definitely felt like fancy for fancy sake, when really we would have preferred simpler food that tasted good. CJ stuck with the cheese plate for dinner, but that was the highlight for me, because they had coffee ice cream on the menu and I ended up getting a double helping! Both because it hit the spot, but also to prolong the dinner conversation.
Everyone at dinner was brimming with excitement from the fulfilling day in South Georgia – the wildlife and scenery were unlike anything we had ever seen, and that’s saying a lot given we came from Antarctica! Everyone felt the way Brendan looks here – a satisfied explorer!
Here is the food recap for the day: