Gold Harbour! This is the place that is present in my mind every time I say how great South Georgia is, it¹s the embodiment of all that is great about this place! The wide harbour surrounds us on either side, like the island is greeting us with it¹s greatest gift: A curving beach filled with King penguins, sprinkled with elephant seals, some fully grown, many still weening, gracefully lined with tusset grass falling to a backdrop of rising mountains crested with hanging glaciers framing the entire scene. The geological and natural forces were particularly inspired in the formation of this place, everything comes together in the most epic finale on our last visit in South Georgia.
Even a blind man will find this extraordinary world is populated with a cacophony of sounds: Male elephant seals sparring and burping, King penguins throw their heads back calling in ecstasy, baby Kings tweet and freak out flapping their flippers madly spinning in circles accompanied with a background of rolling waves gently washing the shores with the occasional rumble of the hanging glaciers above us. Stimulating tactile sensations abound! Soft grey sand is warm under my feet, weeners snuggle up and explore our human figures with their snouts, and small gusts of wind patter me with penguin feathers. I close my eyes, and I can feel a great pulse of life in this place.
Most people would consider the olfactory experience here to be offensive, but now these smells are associated with the most profound experiences I¹ve ever had. Much like a horse rider will whiff a jacket and exclaim with joy ³it smells like barn!², I do the same with my penguin parka.
But it¹s not over yet!
The plan is to head over to cooper bay, the place we always put on the itinerary and never manage to get to. It¹s positioned in the worst place and always ends up getting too much swell. You¹ll look down at the gangway and see it¹s 10 feet above the water, and a millisecond later it¹s 10 feet under the water. This time it was calm, I¹ve been here 6 times before and never managed to get this far, I¹m feeling lucky! Cooper bay is both desirable and difficult to get to simply because it¹s hosted by Macaroni penguins. They are extremely abundant but they love to colonize in the most inconvenient places for tourist operations, climbing and nesting on rocks and mountain slopes. Having to make those traverses every day to feed in the ocean, combined with their unusual feathery crest they seem pretty retarded. I¹d love to fast forward in time to see if they even survive, if they don¹t I might just think that they deserved it. However that will likely not be true, apparently they are one of the most abundant penguin worldwide, contrary to their difficult life and shorter lifespan, they are likely here to stay.
We scooted around craggy shores while the Macaronis stared down at us from their rocky perches and at least managed to check them off the wildlife list, then back to the ship it was to our last stop in Drygalski fjord.
It was extremely windy but we at least saw a glacier calve in the rain while drinking hot toddies on the bow. This is our last look at South Georgia before we head for the South Orkney islands. I¹ve only been there once before, I hope we make it again, we¹ve been lucky so far.