While South Georgia never ceases to amaze, some days are beyond magic. Today was one of those days.
From the very beginning, when we arrived on the beach at St. Andrew’s Bay beneath a patchwork of puffy clouds and warm weather, we were off to a great start. Just getting ashore can often be challenging but today, swell and weather were in our favor so we took the opportunity and traipsed amongst the din of 250,000 pairs of king penguins, South Georgia’s largest colony. These charismatic birds not only covered many square miles of post glacial landscape but were stacked thick along the small adjoining islands of the bay. Sea and penguin layered by cloud and mountain top.
On shore some giant petrels were making short work of weak or sick penguins while, just off shore, others were cleaning up after their meal. These large, stocky, confident sea birds plunge their bloodied faces in and out of the water after a meal. Often oblivious to impressed onlookers.
Our afternoon offered a slice of history and culture at Grytviken whaling station. This site has been preserved in an effort to educate contemporary generations about the former scale of whaling while also serving as the final resting place of Sir Ernest Shackleton. Massive blubber storage tanks flank the station to the north while equally large diesel tanks mirror them to the south. Between are the various bits of machinery used to process and render blubber into useable oil. A grisly scene to any whale loving naturalist.
Above it all was a long, sinuous lenticular cloud, which slowly built during our stay. As we headed away from the station the cloud grew in length and form and was joined by other lenticular clouds in every direction. As the light grew more dim the clouds began to glow. Smooth-edged, elongated formations transformed from pink, to orange, to steely grey as the evening matured.
Before the full crescendo we joined our two sister ships, the NG Endurance and Resolution in Cumberland Bay. Side by side by side, beneath a riot of color, three of our Antarctic worthy vessels shared a moment of beauty. Three proud captains, supported by three teams of staff and crew all sharing hellos and “I miss you’s” via radio, aboard three beautiful ships, had a chance to share a moment in one of the most impressive landscapes on the planet. It was just one of those days. Beyond magic.