South Georgia

Ben Collen

South Georgia is famed for its severe weather, strong winds, rain, sleet and snow; 4 seasons in one day is the norm, rather than the exception.  The weather gods were no doubt smiling on us though, as we experienced some incredibly calm weather that enabled us to visit 5 sites over the past 4 days, allowing us to get feather samples from 4 colonies of King penguins, and 3 colonies of Gentoo penguins. Most exciting of all though, was that we placed 2 time lapse cameras overlooking penguin colonies – our first on South Georgia, and the start of our long term monitoring programme for penguins. Craggy, dark mountain peaks frame the skyline, with hanging glaciers calving ice over dark sandy beaches.  The wildlife is on a vast scale.  St Andrew’s Bay, one of our sampling sites, is home to an estimated 200,000 breeding pairs of King penguin.  That is penguins as far as the eye can see, and a smell which cannot be described.
King penguins
Interspersed among them, young fur seals, sparring with each other, practicing the skills it will take to become a beach master; elephant seals, lying in big piles moulting this seasons skin; patrolling skewers, looking to pick off the weak, looking for an easy meal. The species list so far includes: King penguins, Gentoo penguins, :Macaroni penguins, cape petrels, giant petrels, South Georgia pintail, South Georgia pipit, Wandering Albatross, black browed Albatross, grey headed Albatross, fur seals, Weddell seal, and elephant seals.
Fur seals
As we leave South Georgia, the weather is starting to turn.  Winds have picked up to 45 knots, the waves are crashing around the ship, up to 7m in height, and we spot our first iceberg.

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