Adventures in Antarctica -Part II

A fur seal looking down his nose at us – Stromness

Last time this story was updated, I was en route to South Georgia Island on the M/S Explorer. We had just passed the Shag Rocks, and enjoyed a friendly visit from a Southern Right whale.

After what seemed like an age at sea, we finally made it to South Georgia. Here, from the safety of our Zodiacs, we explored abandoned whaling stations and fur seal colonies.

The latter were noticeable from quite a distance due to the musty odour of their fur. Loud and smelly, these territorial mammals seemed to be everywhere in South Georgia- their biggest breeding ground. We were given warnings to stay away, especially from the aggressive males.

Abandoned whaling station

The abandoned whaling stations were, for most of us at least, an unpleasant reminder of that now distasteful trade. The stations were of course built with one macabre goal in mind: efficient processing of dead whales. It was a sad, rusty, unappealing place where it was all too easy to imagine what went on.

But, despite being an awful display of our collective history, it was also fascinating to see the abandoned buildings; made obsolete by progress.

While we were on South Georgia Island, we explored Grytviken, where we raised a glass to Sir Ernest Shackleton – little did we realize that our ship’s final resting place would come so close to his own, and only a few days ahead.

At Grytviken, we had the opportunity to pop into their little post office and mail postcards home. Most of us did, if only for the novelty and distraction.

One guy, in anticipation of this, had pre-typed labels to stick to his postcards. At first, I thought they were pre-addressed sticky labels (a handy tip I’ve used in the past), but it turns out he was even more optimistic. They read something along the lines of “Having a great time. Wish you were here.” All he had to do was stick everything together. Efficient, if not particularly personal!

On the count of three…

However, I digress. Grytviken was one of the most remote places I’ve ever visited, and certainly one of the places with the most exciting wildlife. Gigantic, cranky elephant seals were flopped everywhere, catching a snooze between arguments, stoically ignoring gangs of king penguins racing from invisible spot to invisible spot.

This comical scene had a rusty backdrop of empty oil containers, an awkwardly abandoned ship with a tendency to get in the way of photos, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s whiskey-soaked grave, and some of the most incredible scenery in the world.  It was memorable.