Sunday morning at Cooper Bay, on the extreme east end of South Georgia Island, just incredible! No landing this morning, but rather a Zodiac tour, a scenic tour, up close and personal. Everything is at the water’s edge or in the water. Oh yeah, the sky and mountains are a great backdrop, but there is hardly any time to look there.
Let us start with the seals, the pinnipeds really. There are dozens of elephant seals on the beaches snoring, roaring and grunting: giant males, dainty females, and cute babies. There are hundreds of fur seals on the beaches and in the water: males fighting, females giving birth, and newborn black pups looking around and acting a bit confused. And for an extra scoop, some of the Zodiacs encounter not just one leopard seal, but three. The evidence of their work is being attended by some of the birds.
There are nesting macaroni penguins. As usual, they are up high in the tussock grass. However, the water is so calm we can sit quietly and watch them march down from the colony and up from the sea. There is also a large group of them right next to us on an exposed rocky reef. Mostly they are just chilling, taking a break from the nest. Two of them are trying to mate and doing a very poor job of it!
Across the way, at another beach, there is a colony of chinstrap penguins. It is this group that the leopard seals have been working. Fresh penguin carcasses have washed up on the beach. The freshest, meatiest ones are worked over by the giant petrels. When they are finished, in come the smaller skuas. Finally, when it is almost all bones, the snowy sheathbills take over.
But that’s not all. There are king penguins and gentoo penguins as well. It seems like every bird and mammal species on the island has come out for our standing ovation. There are even refreshments and libations served by a roving band of Vikings, who look suspiciously like Hotel Manager Anders, new Hotel Manager Andrea and Provision Master Joel!
Yes, it is quite the morning, indeed.
IMAGE: A roving band of Vikings, who look suspiciously like our dedicated hotel and galley crew. (Photo by Dennis Cornejo)