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Cobblers Cove to Rookery Point adventure walk. Ocean Harbour cruise and landing in the afternoon.

The long party night left behind a bunch of what seems to be “tired people”, that gradually emerge from their bunks for breakfast. By that time, Europa had already made her way to the entrance of the little Cobblers cove, located just a handful of miles from Grytviken. There is an abundance of wildlife to be found in the area, and notably our morning goal, a Macaroni penguin colony at the wind and swell exposed shores of Rookery point. In the past it was called Pleasant Cove by British surveyors, Hysdathullet after an early 20th century Norwegian whaling captain by the name of Hysdat, and Skomaker Hullet which means cobbler’s cove in Norwegian. The place represents one of the most sheltered yacht anchorages in South Georgia, but what is great for yacht, it may not be so great for a
square rigger such as Europa. The Cobbler’s cove is just too small for Europa to get in and maneuver under the unstable wind and weather conditions we had today. We had to work around this, because to reach the Macaroni penguin colony, we had to start the hike from Cobbler’s Cove. We decided to land at narrow beach in Godthul, cross about 100-meter-wide patch of land called Long Point that separates Godthul from Cobbler’s Cove and make a second zodiac ride to cross the Cobbler’s Cove to a beach where our hike starts. That zodiac went around Long Point with Jordi. He was able to do it by himself, but fully loaded zodiac would be dangerous due to relatively long ride and high swells from the open sea. It turned out to be quite an adventurous landing. From previous experience we expected calm waters or just little swell. That was the reason our guides didn’t wear dry suits. As we closed in to the beach, there was quite a big surge. Despite all this the landing was relatively smooth considering the circumstances. We were all ashore and could have a good look at surroundings. The entrance to Cobblers Cove is a dramatic narrow channel guarded by the 100m high summit of Long Point. The shoreline widens inside the cove to form a near landlocked kelp-strewn basin bounded on all sides by steep-sided tussock-clad hillsides. The hike started by climbing up the steep hillside. After crossing the first tussock patches crowded with fur seal pups we continued through loose rocks that later transitioned into a mixed grass/rock surface that later changed to moist grassy patches. From the top we had a great view on the rugged landscape. Cobbler’s Cove seems to lay at our feet, and in the background Godthul with its green slopes and mountains, spiced up
with a random iceberg on its waters, while Europa drifts for the duration of our outing. After a short rest we continued our hike that led us through vegetated landscape framed with rugged mountain range as a backdrop. Clouds literally disappeared from the sky and sunshine brought the color back to the landscape. Up at the plateau, we came across some reindeer bones, animal that was introduced to South Georgia by Norwegian whalers and later eradicated as their growing population had a negative impact on natural environment. Little further on, we could see a few scattered Giant petrels’ nests on the slope and the saddle overlooking the such suitably called Horseshoe Bay. Soon after that we started our descent towards Rookery Point. As we came closer, we entered a big patch of high tussock grass field, but we had to make our way through, to get close to the rocky shore where some Macaroni penguins are molting, others seem to have finish this process and dispersed chicks still roam around. After the long hike we finally made it. Sunlit rocky shore was a perfect place to sit down and enjoy the views. Besides the penguins, Snowy sheathbills and Skuas are
loitering around in search of some nourishment, probably leftovers from the larger and stronger Giant petrels that gather here and seem to be hunting weak penguin chicks or weary molting adults.
Our way back was through the same landscape. The whole group made it safe back to Cobbler’s Cove where we started our “extended” zodiac operation to re-embark the ship. Cross the Cobbler’s Cove by “Blacky”, walk through short patch that separates the cove from Godthul and on the other side get picked up by “Grey” and finish the transfer to Europa. That was the logistics. But embarking the “Grey” in Godthul proved to be quite a challenge. Large surge was crashing the rocky beach. As the zodiac was closing in on the beach the waves became stronger. Sarah and Richard tried to catch the zodiac and hold it steady. The timing window for the embarkation was between trains of waves hitting the shore. Of course things didn’t go entirely as planned and the zodiac took in quite a lot of water. Finally after some effort first 8 people were on the way to Europa. Once the “Grey” was back again, Sarah and Richard tried hard again to keep the zodiac as still as possible wrestling with the surge. They managed to get the next batch of people in, but then a series of high waves hit the shore again. After 10-15 minutes the last batch managed to get into “Grey” relatively smoothly and soon we were all safe aboard of Europa. The hike to the macaroni penguin colony was a treat, more challenging to some than others but we all made it and that’s important. And we also enjoyed a little bit of adrenaline rush on our zodiac transfers back to the ship. Altogether, it was a great experience. Soon Europa resumed her way, now heading to Ocean Harbour, where we planned the afternoon activity. This picturesque bay used to be home for another whaling station, but almost no remains of it can be seen from the decks. Although the station was very successful, it was dismantled in 1920,
after 10 years of service, when the two Norwegian companies with leases at Stromness and here in Ocean Harbour, merged together, and decided to keep just one of the facilities. At this point practically all of Ocean Harbour equipment was moved to Stromness. But at the beginning, Ocean Harbour was the first to apply the regulations of using the whole whale to extract its oil, not just the blubber. This process was difficult on-board factory ships but could be accomplished on land with the use of high-pressure boilers, requiring lots of freshwater as well. Ocean Harbour fulfilled pretty well all the requirements. A year before the shore station began its work, already had arrived to the area the ship Ocean, after which the bay took its name. The first Station Manager was Carl Anton Larsen’s brother, Lauritz. Carl was busy as well starting his own operation at Grytviken. Nowadays we can walk amongst several relatively small debris and artifacts from those old times, including an old steam locomotive. But most spectacularly, standing-out with her rusty iron-riveted hull, at one side of the bay lay aground the picturesque shipwreck of the Bayard. She offers a sort of connection between South Georgia and our Old Lady Europa, as Bayard was blown off her moorings at the opposite side of the bay in 1911. She has been resting here ever since, surrounded by a huge Kelp forest and countless Fur and Elephant seals. For the same 108 years, Europa has been at sea, first as a light-ship at Elbe river, then sailing the world’s oceans. The spectacular Bayard was built in the Liverpool yards in 1864, and likewise the Europa, she was rigged as a Bark. She operated in South Georgia for several years until finishing her life, becoming since then home for a large South Georgia shag colony. Cruising around the large hull, we could all admire her construction, little details and discover the similarities with the Europa. From her three standing masts, the Main one had collapsed during last year and now could be seen still hanging half way with its tip dipped in the water. Following the short cruise amongst the kelp forests surrounding the shipwreck, we head ashore to wander around the remains of the whaling, including the small graveyard home for the oldest grave found I the island, belonging to the sealers era, preceding the whaling period. Large number of the ever-present Fur seals welcome us, and in between them numerous molting Elephant seals gather in their stinky wallows. A grassy hill offered great views of the whole bay from a vantage point for the ones still with strength enough for a bit of an afternoon stroll. For tonight Europa will stay at anchor at the bay, hoping for calm winds and good holding ground, until heaving anchor in the early morning to
head toward the spectacular St. Andrews Bay.

Geschreven door:
Richard and Jordi | Guides

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