South Georgia Island

December 20, 2018

Adolescent elephant seals relaxing in South Georgia Island.
(Courtesy of Brit Brenda for whom seals and penguins eagerly posed.)
South Georgia is another British Overseas Territory but, unlike the Falklands, it gets too cold for permanent human residents. It only has a few dozen intrepid, temporary stationed researchers.

South Georgia is some 100 miles long and 20 miles wide.

As the South Atlantic's largest island east of the Falklands, it attracts a big concentration of marine and bird life as a good place to breed, raise young, and hang out between long feeding journeys out into the rich buffet of the Southern Ocean.

Salisbury Plain

This jaw-dropping metropolis of many tens of thousands of King penguins was my most unforgettable sight in South Georgia. Various online sources estimate 60,000, 100,000, or 200,000 penguins at the peak. Not surprisingly, it is one of the world's largest such colonies.

To keep a nondisruptive distance, we never barged into dense areas. But you could sit for hours out here in the suburbs and watch the show.

The fluffy brown birds are King penguin chicks less than a year old who have not yet molted their protective feathers.

Not all penguins seek the congestion.
Some opt for less crowded parts of Salisbury Plain.

Stromness

Ruins of the Stromness whaling station that, in 1916, sheltered and saved the imperiled Antarctic expedition of Ernest Shackleton. He is a popular, heroic figure in Britain today. We heard a lot about his tribulations and triumphs.

We hiked to the waterfall named for Shackleton.

Hiking back to the Stromness beach (dotted with fur seals) to catch zodiacs over to the Silver Explorer. (Photo by Pedro.)

Ocean Harbour

This area was dominated by elephant seal bulls. Mature bulls are around 15 feet long and weigh over 2½ tons; some of the largest can weigh 8 tons. Females are one-third that size.

Elephant seals "cuddling."

This scene already had a lot ― lush spring grass, two trickling streams, an old cabin from the whaling era, lounging elephant seas including a mating pair, and varied diagonal angles. Then, to push it over the top, two penguins walked up to take center stage and add strong verticals. Whew.

Gold Harbour

King penguins seem totally unintimidated by big elephant seal bulls and almost act condescending toward them.

Genuinely adding to the fun were periodic batches of snow this morning.

Elephant seal bulls here took turns bellowing, dueling, and lounging.

Antarctica lacks the variety or intensity of animal life that flourishes up here in South Georgia. I'm really glad I had the chance to explore this amazing, remote island.

One evening I looked out the window and caught this dazzling sunset over South Georgia.