We have been hoping to squeeze in a trip to South Georgia but it has been simply too busy. This was our one chance, and we grabbed it with both hands. HMS Clyde was heading south on patrol, and we would join them for the 3-4 day journey, taking the opportunity to look around the island for the couple of days we would be there. We are not sailors and did not truthfully know what to expect; it may not have helped that most of the crew had recently changed over, and so neither did they. We had heard tales of huge seas in the South Atlantic, and true to form, our sailing was delayed by 12 hours because of damage risk. Mmm.
The first 24 hours were quite eventful; we both failed to hang on to lunch, and decided that dry toast and bananas, accompanied by ginger biscuits, were as much as we could manage. Even then, with the view generally skewed at round 25’ we saw some fabulous sights; the Wandering Albatross joined us around half a day’s sail from Stanley, and stayed with us all the way south. Wingspans of 10 feet plus – they are like terriers with wings. Without perspective in the wake of the ship, it is hard to grasp how huge they are until a storm petrel arrives like a tiny hummingbird in comparison.
After two days, we hit the Polar convergance; this is the drop zone from a weather cycle, and the temperature plummeted significantly. Grey swollen seas rolled and pitched the ship, and after another 24 hours it was fabulous to finally spot land. And HUGE land – rising up from the sea to truly spectacular heights, snow topped, craggy, woven in and out of clouds.
Now the ice watch began; four hour watches for icebergs, bergy bits and growlers. The hull of Clyde is 6mm and will not stand impact, so we slowed and focussed.
Eventually, King Edward Point approached, Gritvynken whaling station just around the bay, hulking rusting tanks and engines serving as a reminder of the whaling industry which nearly killed off the whale population, and only stopped in the 1960s. Seals and dolphins bobbed and dived, penguins porpoised. Storm petrels, white chinned petrels, wandering albatross, black browed albatross, light mantled sooty albatross, with amazing and almost shocking white ringed eyes.