Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wow! (Nov. 15)

Describing the past two days is impossible for me. South Georgia is more amazing than I imagined. This place is truly special. I've never visited anywhere quite like it. 
For those of you who are not familiar with this incredible place or think I'm speaking of the southern portion of my home state (which is also pretty special), South Georgia is an island southeast of South America and a little northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Its about 100 miles long, 20 miles wide, and has peaks ranging from an average of about 5,500 feet to a high of about 9,500. It has black sand beaches, glaciers, fjords, mountains, streams, and waterfalls. It's as though a mountain range simply rose out of the ocean. This island feels more like a continent than an island when you set foot on it. 

Typical South Georgia

Amazingly enough, it gets even better. The beaches are literally covered with wildlife. From thousands and hundreds of thousands of beautiful, comical King Penguins to hundreds of giant elephant seals or the aggressive fur seals, every time we set foot ashore we are surrounded. 

Gold Harbor and the National Geographic Explorer.

Greg and Elephant Seal pups.

When I first saw Salisbury Plain for yesterday's landing, I was overwhelmed. I didn't know where to look or how to see it all. This morning's landing at Gold Harbor was even more overwhelming. As my feet hit the sand, I walked between two Elephant seal bulls, each weighing around 6 tons, to see the mountains with a hanging glacier and an icefall all behind a king penguin colony. It may have been the most dynamic place I have ever been. At one time, I was watching an albatross at its nest while looking down at thousands of king penguins with a beautiful mountain backdrop, seeing the largest carnivores on earth (yep the Southern Elephant seal, as long as you exclude whales) battle for mastery of the beach, and watching the glacier calve down in a giant waterfall of ice and all that with amazing weather, a rarity in South Georgia. Overwhelming. 
This afternoon, we went for a hike from another beach up to a mountain pass to see the next bay over and the main mountain range on the island. The view from the top was awesome. 

Mountain pass overlooking Cumberland Bay.

This was the high point of our hike.

I'm sure there's a lot more to say, but I'm not really sure how to say it. I'm just really glad and thankful to be here. 

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