We set out to toast ‘The Boss’ at the Grytviken cemetery
The hikers head up to Gull Lake above Grytviken
The inscription on the backside of Shackleton’s gravestone
Many King Penguins are molting by the stream at St Andrews Bay rookery
Crossing the glacial stream at St Andrews Bay to get to the King Penguin rookery
Le Boreal - January 10, 2012
Grytviken, St. Andrews Bay
Temperature: 40° F
Wind speed: 10 knots
Cloud cover: 60%
We awoke at anchor in the glassy waters of Cumberland Bay, with South Georgia's highest peaks looming above us in the distance. Grytviken, a place soaked in history from the age of Antarctic exploration and exploitation, could be seen just ahead of the ship, tucked away in a quiet cove with a stunningly beautiful natural harbor.
We landed on a beach just below the Grytviken cemetery where Sir Ernest Shackleton's grave is located, along with those of many whalers who lost their lives in the pursuit of whale oil. Shackleton died in Cumberland Bay aboard his ship the Quest in January 1922, just six years after his heroic rescue of the crew from his ship, Endurance. Historian Bob Burton led us in a graveside toast to 'The Boss', whose body was actually in Uruguay en route to Britain when a telegram from Lady Shackleton insisted that he be laid to rest in South Georgia, where he most belonged.
Some of us hiked up the hill behind the cemetery to get a view across the scenic bay. Others wandered past snoring fur seals and fearless penguins en route to the remains of the whaling station. Rusty storage tanks, dilapidated whale catcher boats and old industrial machinery lay in disarray everywhere. The Grytviken Museum was a must-see and we made our way through the various rooms with their fantastic natural history displays and the remarkable records of life in a whaling station. The museum shop was also a mandatory stop, offering many South Georgia souvenirs to take home.
Back on Le Boreal, we joined the South Georgia Heritage Trust's Sarah Lurcock for a short talk about the ongoing project to eradicate non-native rats from South Georgia, for the benefit of the island's nesting birds. Then, with a fare dose of humor, Captain Patrick Marchesseau taught us how to read the ice and weather reports he receives regularly, and gave us a preview of the weather to come!
After lunch, we arrived at yet another spectacular site called St. Andrews Bay. The stunning scenery of towering mountain peaks with calls of king penguins echoing across the bay only increased our anticipation of what awaited us.
It was truly a once in a lifetime experience to be in the presence of 100,000 pairs of King Penguins, the largest colony on South Georgia. Once past a very exciting stream crossing, we hiked along the beach beyond resting fur seals and elephant seals to an overlook where we could take in this truly massive and impressive penguin colony. It was impossible not to notice how incredibly loud it was, as well as how strong the smell was. Chicks let out high pitch whistles as begging calls to their parents, while adults trumpeted in courtship displays with potential mates.
The daylight was fading as the last zodiac was lifted back onboard Le Boreal. It was an incredible day and we headed off to bed early so we would be prepared for more of South Georgia tomorrow.