Under winds with variable force we made our way to South Georgia. To get close to land on the North east side of the island we actually went through StewartStrait, in foggy conditions just with around 3.5 cables of visibility. We kept sailing all the way, bracing square and downwind as we pass through this channel. Before getting into Elsehul Bay, where we plan the activity for the morning, our first landfall in South Georgia, we slow down waiting for daylight.
For that purpose we drop all sails but the lower topsails and start a late night/early morning furling party with both permanent crew watches stowing away all sails, and by 05:35h engines roar again to get inside Elsehul Bay. Out at sea the wind blows over 25 to 30kn, but as we get deeper into the narrow cove, it dies down and when we drop anchor around breakfast time, there is barely any wind at the spot. After spending five days at sea we are now in South Georgia, eager to stretch our legs on land.
Our first coffee of the day walking on deck was accompanied by the howling sounds of countless Fur seals, and the gliding flight of majestic Wandering albatrosses, Black browed, gorgeous Grey headed and the elegant Light mantled sooty albatrosses. From the icy coasts of Antarctica, now we have to get used to the green vegetated areas all around South Georgia.
Right at the first steps off the zodiacs, we had our first South Georgia welcome experience: wet weather and landing, beaches teeming with wildlife and lots of Fur seal pups playing around the shallows and getting really interested in ourselves and our activities. By that time of the year mostly all the big males are gone on holidays after the stressful mating and fighting period, and the individuals left are just a couple of months old youngsters and some females. The pups gather together in kindergartens, knowing each other, interacting, inspecting their surroundings and learning the swimming techniques in the shallow waters along the beach. Their mothers come and go from the sea often to breast feed them. It was also our first meeting with the ubiquitous King penguins, even though Elsehul is not a preferred place for them to breed. Several groups of them where scattered all along the small beaches around the cove, together with numerous Gentoo penguins, that actually have a breeding rookery nearby.
The walks in South Georgia are often pretty demanding, mostly due to the constant trampling by fur seals that has killed off much of the tussock grass in the upper parts of the beaches. At the end this creates a maze of brown slippery mounds and channels. Looking for a way through this kind of terrain, over steep slopes, we are lucky enough to approach a couple of albatross nests.
From up the hills we made our way down to the beach where the zodiacs picked us up and soon we were on our way to the place where we plan to spend the afternoon, Right Whale Bay, just about 17nm away. A great morning with just a perfect start for a South Georgia experience, teeming with local wildlife, jagged scenery, and strong weather combined in a unique way.