- 4 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners
A strip of jagged mountains pierces the brooding clouds of the Southern Ocean. Icebound peaks loom over storm-washed beaches, while glaciers peek from the heads of deep fjords. First believed to have been landed on by legendary explorer Captain James Cook, even to modern explorers, South Georgia presents a forbidding aura. But peer closer, and you can see greenery among the ice, movement on the beaches, and wings in the skies above.
While it seems hard to believe today, South Georgia was once one of the most degraded environments on Earth. Hearing of the rich pickings, sealers flocked to the island after Cook, slaughtering wantonly. Once the seals had been almost exterminated, visiting ships sought larger prey, and South Georgia became the world's largest whaling destination, with several settlements built to carry out this industrialized slaughter. Whalers from Norway introduced reindeer as game, which soon destroyed the island's native vegetation, while brown rats (accidentally introduced by Europeans and their boats) feasted upon seabirds and their eggs—a horror against which these naive birds had no defense.
Thankfully, extensive conservation (including the painstaking eradication of reindeer and rats) has restored this magnificent island to its former glory—and glory it truly is. Beaches throng with hundreds of thousands of King Penguins, arguably some of Earth's most elegant animals. They must vie for space with the abundant Antarctic fur seals, all desperately defending territories and competing furiously for mates, and they themselves must avoid the southern elephant seals, Earth's largest seals (weighing up to a staggering four tons). Tiny South Georgia pippits and pintail ducks (once almost extinct) are now abundant, and petrels, albatross, and shags nest on the steep hillsides and wheel in the air above. In the sea, leopard seals stalk for their next penguin meal, fur seal pups play in the shallows, and offshore, a huge variety of whale species gorge on krill. Nowhere else on Earth can boast such a diversity of wildlife, or in such quantities; South Georgia truly has to be experienced to be believed.
As in Antarctica, your exact itinerary will be dictated by weather and sea conditions, but especially by the wind and swell; nevertheless, the experienced Expedition Team and Captain will work their hardest to maximize opportunities to explore. Options include visiting the vast penguin colonies of Salisbury Plain and St Andrew's Bay, seeing the former whaling stations of Lieth and Stromness, drinking in the scenery and seal colonies of Gold Harbor, or exploring this island's fascinating exploration heritage at Grytviken (where Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried). South Georgia is one of those locations that grabs hold of the senses and never lets go; even long after departure, the jewel of the South Atlantic will captivate visitors for years to come.