Several times on our trip down the eastern side of South Georgia Island, the weather has become an issue. Today we were supposed to make landfall on Cooper Bay. With the wind kicking up and large waves rocking the Sea Explorer, this destination is cancelled for now. I guess I will get further along in my novel, waiting for an improvement in the ambient conditions.
It is now afternoon, and as luck would have it, the wind has diminished, and it has stopped raining. We're told that a zodiac landing on Gold Harbour is imminent. This is exciting!
Gold Harbour is referred to as "the jewel in the island's crown." As we approach the beachfront, peaks and glaciers become visible as imposing structures that surround an area rife with wildlife. Fur and elephant seals jostle for position while king penguin chicks form massive creches. Seabirds swoop down from overhead, adding to the idyllic menagerie before me.
This sound is situated south-southwest of Cape Charlotte, with Bertrab Glacier staring me in the face. Originally referred to by several names including "Sandwich Bay," Gold Harbour is now the approved moniker, accepted by sealers and whalers during the last century.
The name Gold Harbour derives from the yellow appearance of the cliffs that enclose this oceanfront as the early morning and late afternoon sunlight drench these environs.
As I stroll down the shore, a huge number of king penguins are present with smaller numbers of gentoos interspersed amongst them. Elephant seals preside over a pup kindergarten at the western end of the cove where a glacial stream drains into the sea. Approaching a headland along this part of the seafront, the nesting sites of the light-mantled sooty albatross become visible.
Southern elephant seals are the largest animal by far on Gold Harbour. These mammals grow to over 9 feet in height with weights of up to 1 ton. While some of the "bulls" are fighting each other, scores of babies are staying clear of the threatening action. The adult bull southern elephant seal is without rival as the largest member of the order of carnivora extant today. In point of reference, these vertebrates weigh 6 to 7 times more than other large, terrestial carnivorans such as polar and Kodiak bears.
Having covered most of the oceanfront, I stop taking photos, sit on the beach, and enjoy the scenery. The wildlife and majestic mountain surroundings certainly compare favorably with other stops we have made along the coast. I know that our 5 days on South Georgia Island are waning. The photos I have taken on this trip will stoke memories of my experiences here for years to come.