It was a tremendous last day in South Georgia – filled with awe-inspiring scenery, wildlife, and some exciting surf! We started the day before dawn as expedition leader Doug assessed conditions at Gold Harbour beach for our early morning landing. There were large openings in the clouds on the horizon and very calm breezes, which were promising signs for a successful operation ahead. We headed to shore as the sun started to peek through the cloudscape. Within an hour, the wildlife ashore (as well as our keen guests ashore) was bathed in a soft orange glow. The king penguin colony burst into song and vibrant color, and the air was pierced with the bellows (and stench) of molting male southern elephant seals, which were piled upon each other on the shore.
Some of us remained at the colony during breakfast as the surf gathered strength at the beginning of the second part of our landing. We had a bit of a sporty and damp but swift departure from that landing site, and we spent the rest of the morning at a delightfully peaceful spot on the lagoon behind the colony. The rocky beach was a sublime location to enjoy some of the cleanest and most resplendent king penguins in all of South Georgia. They surfed in the pool, waddled amongst the bits of glacial ice washed up on shore, and paraded in the foreground of the Bertrab Glacier.
After lunch, we continued southeast to Drygalski Fjord for a stunning ship cruise into a glacially-carved landscape, one-mile wide and seven-miles deep. At the end of the fjord, Risting Glacier formed a backdrop to dozens of Antarctic terns, Weddell and leopard seals on ice floes, and a floating blanket of brash ice and growlers. The fjord walls kept us protected from strong winds along the coastline and created a wonderfully serene atmosphere with only the crackling of ice as our soundtrack.
It was a perfect end to a truly excellent South Georgia adventure!