South Georgia Islands
Two mountain ranges, the Allardyce and Salvesen, outline the elegant and boisterous landscape of South Georgia. It is lengthy and narrow: 170km-long and varies from 2 to 40 kilometers wide. In austral summer, over 75% of the land is covered in fantastic glaciers, ice caps, and snowfields. South Georgia's history is shadowed by the 1.2 million seals that were slaughtered between 1786 and 1825. Fur seals, valued for their dense skins, were nearly driven to extinction. A hundred years later, the whaling industry took over the region until the mid-1960s. Today, the wildlife of South Georgia flourishes. The fur seals that were on the verge of being completely destroyed now populate the island at over three million. Best viewing of these sea mammals is on the northwest coast of the island. Landing, however, during the breeding season is sometimes difficult because of the vast numbers. But just witnessing the animals in such impressive numbers is an experience in itself. Whalers introduced reindeer to the island in 1911. About 2000 still exist in the area today.
A variety of seabirds also make South Georgia their home. Five million pairs of macaroni penguins nest along the coastline. The gravel beaches at St. Andrews Bay are ideal breeding places for the large King penguins. Comparable in size are the albatross that nest on the south and southeast shores. Two unique birds are also found in this region: the South Georgia pipit is Antarctica's only songbird, and the South Georgia pintail is the world's only meat-eating duck.