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March 20, 2018

A glacier before breakfast.

It was a bright but chilly morning as we gave three cheers for South Georgia and slipped our berth at King Edward Point watched by bemused Fur Seal pups and the KEP staff.

We headed down Cumberland East Bay to look at the majestic Hamberg Glacier where it plunges into the sea. Breakfast was served on deck thanks to Micah, Fiona and the mess team.

Yesterday one of our watch mis-laid their phone in Gryvitken, only to discover on return that it had been handed to the cruise ship personnel in harbour that day. A quick look across the bay revealed the cruise ship heading out. Thankfully, a radio-call to the cruise ship stopped the ship and a tender was dispatched to return the phone to its rightful owner. Thanks to everyone for their help.

From the glacier the ship headed for St Andrews Bay, this wide sweep of  beach and the gentle slope behind is the home to a massive colony of King Penguins. Tenacious anchored in the bay and after lunch the crew ferried us across to the beach. What a sight!  Thousands of penguins as far as the eye could see with eggs and chicks. They were attended by the predatory Skuas and scavenging Sheathbills.  A stream running behind the beach contained playful seal pups while bigger seals lay on the beach belching. Everyone watched in awe and photographed this amazing spectacle.

Last night Bahama Dave gave us a wonderful talk with projected photographs about his climbing exploits. It was so good it’s difficult to see anyone volunteering to do the next talk. This evening we braced the yards, weighed anchor and headed  NE. Our visit to South Georgia will be unforgettable.

Aft starboard watch: w/l Chris H, Fran, Jennifer, Linda, Charlotte, Michael, Skip and Jon.

Location:  54 Degrees, 12 Minutes South, 36 Degrees, 25 minutes West

Launched the ships boat with the 2nd Mate and cadet to go and get some scenic pictures of the ship and glacier in the backdrop. Set sail due north towards the exit of Cumberland bay east in view and falling upon a favourable bay to release ships company for an afternoon of  scientific pursuits.

The coast of South Georgia is raised with lofty summits lost within billowing clouds.  Wild rocks are carved and twisted by the ever present force of wind and ice. Deep valleys lay covered in everlasting snow.

Alas inspite of what little safe harbours South Georgia may afford we chance upon a large commodious bay sheltered from the north west wind. Lying at approx. 54 degrees 26.5 minutes south and 36 degrees 11 minutes west, St Andrews Bay is skirted by high snow covered peaks with Cook, Buxton and glaciers bounding its interior with Mount Skittle to the East, with Clarke Bay below.

The foreshore is made of heavy black sand from  glacial white wash. Some 30 years previous the Cook Glacier would have reached the high water mark with 30m ice cliffs. This has since retreated leaving a plain of meadow grass and antartic hair grass, providing an ideal location for some 1 million King penguins and the various mammals relating to the seal genus and seal birds.

Had the cook prepare lunch for the ships’ company before disembarking them onto the ships boats then proceeded to land crew.

Once upon the shore of  St Andrews Bay teams set off towards a large penguin colony and base of the Cook Glacier. A walk consisting of approx. 1.5 miles allowed majestic views of the bay and numerous sightings of native Fauna. Skuas, Giant Southern Petrels, king penguins, elephant seals, Fur seals, Sheathfields and Antartic Terns.

Even its isolation, vast elevations, ice carved valleys and wretched coastline are no deterrent to the throes of mankind. The beauty and isolation provided an oasis, the last bastion of nature, glaciers filling the fjords, bays filled with cetaceans, hills lined with tussock grass and the air filled with sea birds.

E.C.R.M Edwards

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