Early morning sparring at the Gold Harbor landing
We find piles of molting Elephant Seals at Gold Harbor
The inquisitive Snowy Sheathbills find the zodiacs entertaining
Jason Hicks explains Drygalski Fjord’s geology from the Bridge
We encounter high winds in Drygalski Fjord
Le Boreal - January 11, 2012
Gold Harbor, Drygalski Fjord
Temperature: 38° F
Wind speed: Variable, 20 to 35 knots
Cloud cover: Variable, 50 to 100%
Precipitation: Intermittent rain
A light rain fell as the sky brightened over our early morning coffee and croissants. The zodiacs were lowered into calm waters, and soon we stepped ashore at Gold Harbor, easily one of South Georgia's most beautiful beaches. We headed up from the landing, carefully dodging a huge pile of elephant seals, and began our adventure at Gold Harbor.
The air was filled with a symphony of calls, including loud snorts and belches regularly emanating from young male elephant seals sparring with one another on the beach and in the shallows. Further down the beach was the king penguin colony, with groups of brown woolly-coated chicks called "oakum boys" scattered around the colony's edges. The longer we sat on the edge of the colony, the more of its mysteries were revealed to us. Some of the adult penguins had an egg hidden on top of their feet and buried in their brood patch.
We wandered over to a small gentoo penguin colony in the tussac grass, where most nests consisted of an adult diligently watching over its two beautiful large chicks. South Georgia pintail ducks flew in and out of the tussac pedestals, occasionally walking right though the middle of the penguin colony.
Gleaming white snowy sheathbills ran in and out of the colony like chickens in a barnyard, but in this case looking for spilled food or guano to pick through. Brown skuas soared overhead and rested along the beach, always prepared for an opportunity for a meal. With a backdrop of huge mountains and the tumbling Bertrab glacier behind us, we watched it all unfold around us.
Back onboard after such an early start, many of us opted for a second breakfast and a nap before our arrival at the entrance to the picturesque Drygalski Fjord. Immense mountain peaks rose vertically on either side of us, sheltering us somewhat from the strong winds that had been ripping at the ship's outer decks in the more exposed waters. Captain Patrick Marchesseau took Le Boreal well into the fjord, at which time Geologist Jason Hicks got on the PA system to provide us with an overview of the geology of the area, and the glacial features of the fjord.
After a relaxing afternoon that included watching the swarms of prions dance in the wind alongside the ship, we joined Marine Biologist Charley Wheatley in The Theater for his presentation, "An introduction to the whales of the Southern Ocean". Charley discussed the biology of the various whale species and gave us tips for identifying them. We learned that the blue whale is the largest creature on the planet, can reach over a hundred feet in length, and has a heart the size of a VW "beetle".
At Recap, Marine Biologist Charley Wheatley highlighted the breeding systems of fur seals and elephant seals, while Historian Bob Burton and Naturalist Rich Pagen put on a very entertaining "Interview with a king penguin". A quiet dinner followed, and the opportunity to sleep in tomorrow was in the forefront of our minds.