Holding our ground at Possession Bay in the afternoon strong gusts.
Possession Bay, the area where is thought the pioneer in the island, Captain Cook, first set foot ashore and took possession of it for Great Britain, naming it George Island, after King George III. At the bay’s Northwest corner, a relatively secluded inlet, Prins Olav Harbour, home for Europa’s last night anchorage and today’s plans. As we are getting used to, even if she used again her two anchors, she had to slightly reposition due to the gusting winds dragging her off her place. A blizzard that brought snowfall too, covering our decks and all the surrounding scenery.
It might be well possible that it was right here where Cook landed in 1775. Not even a decade passed when this site became a centre for Fur-sealing operations, serving as a save haven from where to explore the rich sealing grounds around. It was probably already by then and here that the rats where introduced in the island, where in time they proliferate to the point of threatening the local ecosystem.
In the early 20th century, the Norwegian whalers arrived and renamed it Prins Olaf-Hafen, in honour of their Crown prince. First they operate just from a factory ship, then the land station was built. It operated until 1930-1931 season. Nowadays, and together with several other whaling stations in the island, they remain as a decaying witness of those times. It is now forbidden to get closer to it than the 200 meters perimeter set by the South Georgia Government. But a short hike over the tussock grass, where numerous Fur seals rest and some mothers nurse their pups, brought us up the snowy neighbouring hills. From atop, a spectacular view of the whole bay and the relics of the station down below our feet. A good look at them revels their planning and structure. At the centre, the large slipway; at either side the boilers to render the blubber, muscle and even bone into oil; at the background the oil storage tank. Not far away and a bit higher up, a large damp, the fresh water supply for the needs of the station work. On a rocky cape, still stand some of the accommodations for the working crew, and closeby lays the rusty hull of the wreck Brutus.
She was built in 1883 in Glasgow, and after serving as a nitrate transport vessel, was towed from South Africa into the bay using four whaling vessels to be used as a coal storage hulk.
A couple of hours later, and with the weather menacing to turn foul again, it was time to return on board. Just in time. Last zodiac was hoisted on deck on 30kn of gusting winds.
The Europa makes her way then deeper into Possession Bay, a short ride that took her a while as she faced strong blasts, fog and snowfall.
Two anchors drop again in the waters close to the headland called Zero Point, just when she passed the shallows that cross east to west the entire bay. Once more 40, 45, 50kn of wind, and waves crashing over the planned landing site for the afternoon, Brighton Beach, leaving out of a question the idea of going ashore and making for better stay on board.
A good time for a documentary afternoon. Soon the deckhouse is converted in and improvised cinema to play “The Endurance” a good choice of a film about Shackleton for the areas we are visiting.
We have been already talking quite a lot about Ernest Shackleton and his adventures and misadventures, specially his great struggles on the failed Imperial Transantarctic Expedition. A mission not accomplished, a disaster, a fight for survival that became the epitome of good leadership and one of the best known and popular stories of the Polar Exploration. Their wrestle with the ice started in the Weddell Sea and their salvation was found here at South Georgia. The way they took to cross the island by foot lay at our sight at the head of Possession Bay, over the large glaciers that can be momentarily seen when there’s a gap in the low clouds of the afternoon.
Strong winds blow again during the night, anchors strain, pull and now and then drag. It is not until 04:00 AM when we plan to start our way towards Fortuna Bay, and try our luck there for tomorrow’s activities.