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South Georgia - Blustery conditions blow us off Elsehul

Successful landing at Right Whale Bay. 

25, 30, 35, 40, gusts of 46kn, a dance of high numbers that tell about the strong northerly blows that the ship’s two anchors try to hold against. Dragging, re-anchoring, hoping for the best during the rest of the night.  

The beautiful Europa riding the white bull Zeus fights and tries to hold on her two anchors against the battering of the temperamental Aeolus, Greek God keeper of the winds. 

One the Anemoi, his minor gods, specially looked like he had a bad night and a worst wake up this morning: Boreas blew and blasted from his home in the North, straight into Elsehul Bay during the darkest hours. At daybreak he wasn’t tired yet, making  for a landing here out of the question.  

Europa, a human, the princess of Tyre, as brave as she can be, in defiance to the whim of the gods struggles to heave her both chains from the sea bottom and keep her nose pointing against the high waves and strong winds. Now Eurus from the East, play the game together with Boreas, a momentary alliance to create headwinds for her. 

Not without effort, she makes it to the open waters off the northern shore of South Georgia. Weather forecasts out here tells about wind forces and directions, but she finds barely any puff of a breeze. Instead, Poseidon, the god of the seas, takes the chance now and grows a large Northerly swell that makes the ship heavily roll as she makes way Eastwards to the next planned stop, Right Whale Bay. 

Some amusement for everyone who dares to step on deck, with the seas constantly climbing over the rails and washing the Main deck. A couple of hours of that, brought us to Right Whale Bay. 

Shortly after lunch we arrived. It really didn’t look so promising for an afternoon landfall. But nevertheless, in a steadier wind and calmer gusts our guides set off for scout. A few minutes later we could hear a most welcoming radio call, the landing, though in pretty rough conditions, it is possible. 

Foul weather gear zipped up all the way up, cameras safe in our most waterproof bags, we all embark the zodiacs to the surge at the shoreline. 

Though it hosts a large rookery of King penguins, Fur seals and usually Elephant seals too, the picturesque place is not one of the most commonly visited areas in the island. As we set foot at the beach countless curious seal pups surround us, some of them still taken care of by their mothers, others looking more independent already. Elegant assemblies of the inquisitive King penguins approach the group for a close look at those multicoloured bipedal beings that dare to land at their busy beach. 

A short walk bring us up gentle tussock grass slopes. From there there is access to get closer to the heart of the penguin colony. 

A change of scale from the panoramic view to the search of details leads us to start discovering how the rookery is organised, its doings, its dangers. Close to the edges seem to be incubating individuals, at the second line fluffy wet brown chicks gather together between the adults. Everywhere hungry Skuas and Giant petrels patrol the colony, now and then being lucky finding an unattended egg, a dead chick or one small enough for them to prey on. In the continuous rainfall,  the area emanates the feeling of rough wilderness and the harshness of the climate. Right Whale Bay represents an unbeatable entry point to South Georgia. 

A change in the wind strength and direction, an increase in the swell, a change of tide. Signals not to be discarded, telling of a possible water change and the time to start our way back to the ship. 

To the dry warm Europa, tat heaves anchor as soon as we are all on board and starts her rolling way towards Rosita Bay, a better anchorage to spend the night and in fact the landing site to try in the morning.

Photo by Ricky Simko

Geschreven door:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader

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