Awestruck in South Georgia

We were soon to land on South Georgia Island…
I hoped it would be something like the photos we had seen in travel brochures—it surpassed my expectations!

But back to where we left off in the previous post—at sea. After spending Christmas Day at sea, everyone was happy to see any land again. Shag Rocks, out in the middle of seemingly nowhere, had to do. Birders were happy, the rest of us could hardly wait to get to our first two stops in South Georgia—which we reached on December 27, 2020.


Snag Islands–an isolated group of islands off the coast of Antarctica.
65°8′S 64°27′W. Important nesting site for birdlife.

Once again our four groups took turns cruising around the islands and landing to view the wildlife. And what wildlife there was! The following pictures should be worth the proverbial 1,000 words. 

You really do not want to tangle with fur seals. We were told to watch each others backs in case of  aggressive behavior.

Fur seals have recovered from earlier days when they were widely hunted.


Early explorers thought these furry balls were a different species, but they are the young King Penguins.     More to come!                                                                                       

West Point Island and Stanley, Falkland Islands

Windswept and gorgeous West Point Island, Falklands

West Point Island
After our rewarding morning watching Rockhopper Penguins on New Island in the Falklands, we were eager to see more. The captain and activity leader continued to follow the weather reports and decided to keep us on the north side of the island group to find more sheltered conditions for taking out the zodiacs and for our landings.

We headed toward West Point Island for our afternoon’s adventure. The 5.67 sq. mi. island is on the north-west tip of West Falkland—a location that was judged to provide good protection from the prevailing winds (which incidentally reached 8, gale force winds, later that night).

Landing
Once again our groups took turns going over to land and touring in the zodiacs because only 50 people were allowed  on the island at a time. When we were on land, we walked about a 1.5 miles to a rookery and again were mesmerized by the activities of the Rockhopper Penguins and the Black-browed Albatross.

Privately held island
Like New Island, the terrain here was largely grassland, but with the addition of large masses of bright-yellow gorse and eroded sandstone cliffs. It probably would not have been safe to veer off our designed trail, but I wished we could get an even closer look at the rock formations.

 

The island is privately owned, but we were able to look into and around the collection of old barns and other weathered farm buildings. 

 

 

 

Stanley (or Port Stanley)

Stanley is the capital  of the Falkland Islands with a population of approximately 2,500 residents. It’s on the northern side of the island of East Falkland and is one of the wettest places in the archipelago. It’s a favored landing point (no zodiacs required) because it’s a unique British outpost. We were able to visit the small museum, a church, post office, and pub.

Commemorative stamped envelopes in Stanley’s Post Office.

We also had time to walk up the hill into the residential area where we’d been encouraged to visit because the home had a front yard filled with statues of leprechauns. 

Later, back on the ship we had a crazy hat competition as part of the Christmas Eve party. Some very interesting hats were created out of whatever props the participants could come up with—penguins were a popular theme.  

After spending Christmas Day at sea, our next stop would be South Georgia. The excitement in anticipation of seeing the wildlife there was in the air! 

An old pillowcase turned into a head for her penguin.