18 Feb 2024

Antarctic Expedition. Part 7. Arriving at South Georgia

 Leaving the Antarctic continent behind us we started out journey north to visit South Georgia where we were promised even more penguins and the chance to go ashore at Grytviken. We'd already been warned that  other landing sites, Gold Harbour and St Andrews Bay, were off limits due to outbreaks of bird flu and even at Grytviken we were limited to where we could go. Bio-security is taken extremely seriously in Antartica and even more so on South Georgia. We had to ensure our outer clothing and rucksacks were free of all organic material - velcro, pop studs and zips were all checked and tweezers used to remove any small pieces of organic material that was found. We had our kit inspected by the guides and had to sign to say we'd had our kit inspected and it had passed muster. We took the opportunity to do all this on the 2.5 day boat journey from the Antarctic Peninsula to South Georgia. I also took the opportunity to do more seawatching from the bridge deck and continued my onboard regime of getting up around 5 am , skipping breakfast and spending as much time outside. During our journey north we saw many of the same birds we'd seen before but started seeing a lot more Soft -plumaged Petrels.

We also made a detour to see what is currently the largest iceberg in the world. A23A is the size of Luxemburg and calved off the Filchner-Ronne Ice shelf in sector A of the Antarctic (hence its designation A23A - the twenty third iceberg to calve from sector A) in 1986 where it became grounded until it melted enough to start moving north in 2020. An amazing site and because its off the main shipping lanes very few people have seen it. I'll eventually break up and the resultant smaller portions will be known as A23A,B,C etc. Even our captain had his photo taken with it in the background. An amazing site and it even had its own micro environment being surrounded by birds feeding on krill that were feeding on organic matter being released into the water as the ice melted.

The video above does't do justice to the colossal size of this thing. It took us 4 hours at 10 knots to pass one of the shorter sides.

We eventually arrived at South Georgia and tool a  zodiac cruise  to Ocean Harbour where there was a large Fur Seal colony and we spent a couple of hours around these endearing animals.

These fur seals were hunted for their pelts and meat and there was an old sealing station here. Theres also the wreck of the Bayard a 1,200 tonne coal carrying ship, built in 1864, that broke from its moorings in 1911. The crew beached her to save the valuable coal and its now slowly being absorbed back into the environment and is home to a nesting colony of Blue-eyed Shags.

Several pairs  of Antarctic Terns were breeding on the shingle and a newly fledged youngster gave great views from the zodiacs as it waited o na wooden post for a parent bird to return with fish.

As much as I enjoyed this diversion I was itching to get to  what was going to be one of the highlights of the trip that'll be the subject of my next blog post. 

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