OUR SHIP LEFT THE SOUTH ATLANTICSOME TIME AGO. BUT ON BOARDTHE HANSEATIC NATURE, EXPERT SYLVIA STEVENS STILL HAS FOND MEMORIES OF HER VISIT TO GOLD HARBOUR. THE SMALL BAY AT THE EASTERN END OF SOUTH GEORGIA PROVIDED HER WITH SOME TRULY MEMORABLE MOMENTS.
Amazing! Awesome! Spectacular! Incredible! Fascinating! Phenomenal! These are just some of the superlatives we hear from our passengers when they step ashore. Gold Harbour reveals itself in all its beauty, and they fall in love with South Georgia. It is early morning, and the weather is perfect as we board the Zodiacs and head for the landing stage. The water is teeming with penguins swimming alongside us, swooping in and out of the waves. On land, they greet us in their thousands. We don’t know where to look first.
And now the noise is overwhelming – the trumpeting of the adult penguins, the whistling of the chicks, the grunts and snorts of the Elephant Seals, the screech of the Skuas. Something is happening everywhere you turn. Gold Harbour’s King Penguin colony has around 30,000 breeding pairs. Many of them are hatching their eggs and raising the next generation. Last year’s chicks look like little tea cozies with their fluffy brown down. They are about a year old now, but they are still a few weeks away from being ready to plunge into the waves and hunt for their own food.
SOME OF THE PENGUINS LOOK LIKE THEY
ΑRE IN A PUNK HAIRSTYLE COMPETITION.
It’s hard to imagine that these rather weird looking, awkward chicks turn into elegant, majestic King Penguins once they have molted. Some of them are not just fluffy but look like their whole bodies are competing to have the best punk hairstyle. It seems the chicks are just as curious as we are, waddling over to inspect us giant penguins with our blue “plumage” and our strange legs and rubber boots.
Some of the adults are performing their courtship displays. Others are mating, while the fluffy, molting adolescents beg for food from their parents as they return from the hunt. Skuas glide above the colony in search of penguin eggs to steal, and the Giant Petrel, the “vultures of Antarctica,” scour the beach for injured birds. Now and then, a little Gentoo Penguin wanders past, heading for the sea from its colony way further back up the valley. It looks tiny in the midst of the huge King Penguins.
The South Georgia archipelago is a must-see when taking an Antarctic cruise on the HANSEATIC nature. This is the first ship in the new expedition class – small, agile, equipped with the highest ice rating for passenger ships, and sporting a range of features to ensure a trip to these regions is truly unforgettable. Stand up front on the Nature Walk and watch the bow cutting through the ice or take a selfie on the glass balcony. You can also discover more about the world you are sailing through at the Ocean Academy.
We learned all about Gold Harbour before going ashore, but now that we are standing here, we’re overwhelmed. Some strange noises are emerging from the tussocky grass. Southern Elephant Seals are lounging here, shedding their fur and on the lookout for a buddy to tussle with. Some of these massive, 4.5-tonne (10,000-pound) Elephant Seals are also lying around on the beach. Two of them suddenly rear up and start fighting. It’s quite a spectacle.
But it’s the young Elephant Seals that are really impressive. Their mother abandoned them weeks ago and now they are living on their fat reserves as they ready themselves to head out into the ocean for months on end to hunt for food. Our hearts melt as they gaze at us with eyes like saucers – we just want to cuddle them, but of course that’s not allowed!
IN THE DISTANCE, SURROUNDED BY SNOWY PEAKS, IS THE BERTRAB GLACIER.
The smaller Antarctic seals – Fur Seals – are playing and frolicking on the edge of the surf. It’s funny to see them being scared off by the much smaller penguins. Towering above it all, surrounded by snowy peaks,
is the Bertrab Glacier.
Gliding a little further out to sea are the magnificent, elegant albatrosses who are our constant companions. They never seem to flap their wings as they follow our ship, the HANSEATIC nature. As I write this, we have enjoyed many incredible days and seen some amazing sights in gorgeous weather here in Antarctica. But the magical day in Gold Harbour on South Georgia is one that I will never forget.
The expedition ships can accommodate a maximum of 230 guests – 199 for trips to the Arctic or Antarctic. The cabins are equipped with everything you could need: large windows, wall heating, Nordic walking poles, rubber boots, and expedition parkas.