Antarctica Discounts
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Expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula,
South Georgia, Cape Horn,
Falklands & Tierra Del Fuego

On this virtual tour you may see:
Majestic mountains dipped in snow...
Crystalline waterways...
Whales, seals, Soaring Andes condors...
Ice-blue Glaciers that shimmer like jewels..


Maps of South Georgia

Sea Kayaking


Most of the islands, rising steeply from the sea, are
rugged and mountainous; South Georgia is largely barren
and has steep, glacier-covered mountains; the South
Sandwich Islands are of volcanic origin with some
active volcanoes. The highest point is Mount Paget
(South Georgia) 2,915 m. The north coast of South
Georgia has several large bays, which provide good
anchorage; reindeer, introduced early in this century,
live on South Georgia. The islands are largely covered
by permanent ice and snow with some sparse vegetation
consisting of grass, moss, and lichen.

Climate Variable, with mostly westerly winds throughout
the year interspersed with periods of calm; nearly all
precipitation falls as snow. History London-born
merchant Antoine de la Roche may have been he first
person to sight South Georgia. In April 1675, as he was
sailing from Lima to England, his ship was blown south
as he rounded Cape Horn and caught a glimpse of
ice-covered mountains. He and his crew may have been
the first people to see any of the sub-Antarctic
islands. Some historians, particularly those supporting
Argentina's claim to ownership of South Georgia,
believe that de la Roche was wrong, and that he had in
fact sighted Beauchene Island, 800 miles further west.

This is unlikely, as Beauchene Island does not possess
high mountains or bays, items specifically referred to
in Roche's account. They contend that a Spanish
treasure ship, the Leonfirst discovered the island. In
1756, whilst eastward bound on a voyage commissioned by
the French company Sieur Duclos, of St Malo. Sailing
from Lima to Cadiz, she was blown far off course after
rounding Cape Horn. The Leon first sighted the island
early on the morning of 29 June. The feast day of St
Peter is the 1st of July and, as his ship passed its
southern tip, the Master gave the name of the saint to
the island. Some Spanish and Argentine publications
refer to the island as 'Isla de San Pedro' in
preference to the English name. The next arrival, and
the first to set foot on the island, was Captain James
Cook, RN , in 1775. He and his crew landed at three
places around Possession Bay and partly charted the
coastline. It was Cook who gave the name Cape
Disappointment to the southern tip of the main island
when he found that this was not continental Antarctica.

In honor of his king, he named it 'The Isle of
Georgia' . He could not have imagined that it would
become, two centuries later, the stage for the most
southerly battle in all naval and military history. He
left the Corps soon afterwards, but one of his party
contributed a pleasing historical footnote to the South
Georgia story. The ceremonial 'discharge of small arms'
mentioned by Cook was the first recorded use of
explosive on the island and one of the participants was
Corporal Alexander Mills. In 1982, two hundred and
seven years later, another Royal Marine by the name of
Mills took part in a further display of firepower when
he defended the title claimed by Captain Cook. James
Cook was not the only officer of the Royal Navy to play
a major role in charting distant waters during the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

There were others,each contributing his part to the whole.
Some of those best remembered were William Parry, Samuel Wallis,
John Ross, John Franklin, Peter Heywood, Robert Fitzroy,
Francis McClintock, and their doyen, Francis Beaufort .
The detailed knowledge gathered during their cruises,
and later compiled at the Admiralty's Hydrographic
Office, not only ensured safer navigation for maritime
trade but also assisted the scientific community in
developing its understanding of the globe upon which we
live and the forces which have shaped it. Economy Some
fishing takes place in adjacent waters. There is a
potential source of income from harvesting fin fish and
krill. The islands receive income from postage stamps
produced in the UK.

Crossing South Georgia Island
May 19, 1916- May 20,1916

The others turned in, but Shackleton could not sleep,
and he went outside repeatedly to check on the weather.
It was clearing, but only very slowly. Worsley, too,
got up about midnight to see how conditions were.
However, by 2 A.M., the moon was shining down
brilliantly, and the air was wonderfully clear.
Shackleton said the time had come. A final hoosh was
prepared and they ate as quickly as they could.
Shackleton wanted to get away with the least possible
fuss in order not to emphasize the significance of
their leaving in the minds of those who were staying
behind. It took only a few minutes to gather up their
meager equipment. Then they shook hands all around and
Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean crawled out from under
the Caird. McNeish accompanied them for about 200
yards, shook each of their hands again and wished them
luck, then walked slowly back to Peggotty Camp.

It was 3:10 A.M. The final journey had begun. The three men
made their way along the shoreline to the head of the
bay, then started upland, climbing a fairly steep,
snow-covered slope. Shackleton was in the lead, and he
set a brisk pace. For the first hour or so they trudged
upward without a pause. But the snow underfoot was soft
to about ankle depth, and they soon began to feel the
strain in their legs. Fortunately, when they reached a
height of about 2,500 feet the slope leveled off. On
the chart they carried, only the coastline of South
Georgia was shown-and a great deal of that was missing.

The interior was blank. Thus, they could be guided only
by what they could see, and Shackleton was terribly
eager to determine what lay ahead. But about 5 A.M., a
thick fog rolled in, shrouding everything in a diffused
glow of luminescence in which even the snow beneath
their feet was real only when they set foot on it.
Shackleton thought it would be best if they roped
themselves together for safety. By daybreak Worsley
estimated that they had covered about 5 miles, and as
the sun rose higher, the fog began to thin out.

Peering ahead they saw an enormous snow-covered lake, just
slightly to the left of their easterly course. The lake
was a rare bit of good luck because it promised the
opportunity of a level route across its entire length,
and they started toward it. For an hour they followed
an easy downhill route, though there was an increasing
number of crevasses. At first these were thin and
shallow, but before long they grew wider and deeper,
and it soon became apparent that the three men were
descending the face of a glacier. It was an unusual
situation because glaciers rarely emptied into
lakes-and yet there it was, stretching invitingly
before them. By seven o'clock, however, the sun had
risen high enough to burn away the last traces of the
fog, and they suddenly saw that the lake extended all
the way to the horizon. They were marching toward
Possession Bay-the open sea, on the northern coast of
South Georgia. They had, in fact, covered about seven
miles and almost crossed the island at a narrow neck.

But it was of absolutely no use to them. Even if they
could have descended the perpendicular headlands below
them, there was no shoreline along which they might
make their way. The glacier fell sheer into the sea.
There was nothing to do but to retrace their steps, and
they started back upland. The worst of it was that it
cost them time. Given time, they could have probed and
reconnoitered for the best route, resting when they
felt the need and traveling only when they were fit,
and when the weather was best. But they had dared all
for the sake of speed. They had neither sleeping bags
nor tents. And if they were caught in these mountains
by a change of weather, they would be powerless to save
themselves. The blizzards of South Georgia are
considered among the worst on earth. It took two
toilsome hours to regain the ground they had lost, and
then they set off again toward the east.

By eight-thirty they saw that a range of small mountains
lay ahead, a series of ridges and spurs-four
altogether, like the knuckles of a tightly clenched
fist. Worsley figured that their route lay closest
between the first and the second, and they set their
course in that direction. At nine o'clock they paused
for their first meal. A hole was dug in the snow and
the Primus stove was placed in it. A mixture of
sledging rations and biscuits was stirred up, and they
ate it scalding hot. They were on the trail again by
nine-thirty. From here the ascent became increasingly
steep, and they labored upward, a foot at a time, with
Shackleton in the lead. They climbed what seemed to be
an almost vertical slope, cutting steps in its face
with the adz. Finally, about eleven-fifteen, they
gained the summit. Shackleton was the first to peer
over. He saw beneath him a precipitous drop, ending in
a chasm 1,500 feet below. It was strewn with the
shattered fragments of ice that had plunged from where
he crouched. He waved for the others to come see for
themselves. There was no way down. Furthermore, to the
right lay a chaotic mass of ice cliffs and
crevasses-impassable territory.

To the left was a steeply descending line of glaciers dropping
away into the sea. But dead ahead-the direction in which
their course lay-was a gently rising snow slope, stretching
away for perhaps 8 miles. It was this they had to
reach-if only they could get down to it. It had taken
more than three hours of strenuous effort to reach the
summit, but now the only thing to do was to retreat, to
retrace their steps again and try to find a different
way, perhaps around the second peak. They granted
themselves five minutes' rest, then started down the
way they had come. Physically the descent was
relatively easy and took only an hour, but it was a
disheartening business. When they reached the bottom,
they skirted around the base of the mountain, making
their way between the overhanging ice cliffs and a
truly gigantic bergschrund-a crescent-shaped gully, a
thousand feet deep and a mile and a half long, cut out
by the wind. They paused at twelve-thirty to have
another ration of hoosh, and then they started up
again. It was a tortuous climb, much steeper than the
first, and they had to cut steps with the adz beginning
halfway up the face of the slope. The height and the
exertion were a terrible strain and they found it
impossible to keep going steadily.

Every twenty minutes or so they sprawled on their backs with
their legs and arms flung out, sucking in great gulps of the
rarefied air. But finally, about three o'clock in the
afternoon, they were in sight of the ridge-a cap of blue-white
ice. The view from the top revealed the descent to be
every bit as frighteningly impossible as the first had
been, only this time there was an added menace. The
afternoon was getting on, and heavy banks of fog were
beginning to form in the valley far below. Looking
back, they saw more rolling in from the west. Their
situation was starkly simple: Unless they could get
lower, they would freeze to death. Shackleton estimated
their altitude at 4,500 feet. At such a height, the
temperature at night might easily drop well below zero.

They had no means for obtaining shelter, and their
clothes were worn and thin. Hurriedly Shackleton turned
and started down again with the others following. This
time he did his best to keep as high as possible,
cutting steps in the slope and working laterally around
the side of the third peak-then up again once more.
They moved as quickly as they could, but there was very
little speed left in them. Their legs were wobbly and
strangely disobedient. Finally, well after four
o'clock, they struggled to the top. The ridge was so
sharp that Shackleton was able to sit astride it, one
leg on either side. The light was fading fast, but
peering warily down he saw that though the descent was
steep, it was not so bad as the others had been.

Toward the bottom it appeared to slope away toward level
ground. But there was no telling for sure because the
valley now was thick with fog and the light was very
poor. Furthermore, the fog creeping up behind them was
approaching very rapidly, threatening to obliterate
everything, leaving them blinded and trapped atop this
razorback. The time for hesitation was past, and
Shackleton swung himself over the side. Working
furiously, he began to cut steps in the face of the
cliff, descending slowly, a foot at a time.

A bitter chill had come into the air, and the sun was nearly
down. Gradually they were getting lower, but it was
maddeningly slow progress. After thirty minutes, the
ice-hard surface of the snow grew softer, indicating
that the grade was not quite so steep. Shackleton
stopped short. He seemed to realize all at once the
futility of what he was doing. At the rate they were
going it would take hours to make the descent.
Furthermore, it was probably too late to turn back. He
hacked out a small platform with the adz, then called
to the others to come down. There was no need to
explain the situation. Speaking rapidly, Shackleton
said simply that they faced a clear-cut choice:

If they stayed where they were, they would freeze-in an hour,
maybe two, maybe more. They had to get lower-and with
all possible haste. So he suggested they slide. Worsley
and Crean were stunned-especially for such an insane
solution to be coming from Shackleton. But he wasn't
joking he wasn't even smiling. He meant it-and they
knew it. But what if they hit a rock, Crean wanted to
know. Could they stay where they were, Shackleton
replied, his voice rising. The slope, Worsley argued.

What if it didn't level off? What if there were another
precipice? Shackleton's patience was going. Again he
demanded-could they stay where they were? Obviously
they could not, and Worsley and Crean reluctantly were
forced to admit it. Nor was there really any other way
of getting down. And so the decision was made.
Shackleton said they would slide as a unit, holding
onto one another. They quickly sat down and untied the
rope which held them together. Each of them coiled up
his share to form a mat. Worsley locked his legs around
Shackleton's waist and put his arms around Shackleton's
neck. Crean did the same with Worsley. They looked like
three tobogganers without a toboggan. Altogether it
took a little more than a minute, and Shackleton did
not permit any time for reflection.

When they were ready, he kicked off. In the next instant
their hearts stopped beating. They seemed to hang poised for
a split second, then suddenly the wind was shrieking in their
ears, and a white blur of snow tore past. Down down
They screamed-not in terror necessarily, but simply
because they couldn't help it. It was squeezed out of
them by the rapidly mounting pressure in their ears and
against their chests. Faster and faster-down down
down! Then they shot forward onto the level, and their
speed began to slacken. A moment later they came to an
abrupt halt in a snowbank. The three men picked
themselves up. They were breathless and their hearts
were beating wildly. But they found themselves laughing
uncontrollably. What had been a terrifying prospect
possibly a hundred seconds before had turned into a
breathtaking triumph. They looked up against the
darkening sky and saw the fog curling over the edge of
the ridges, perhaps 2,000 feet above them-and they felt
that special kind of pride of a person who in a foolish
moment accepts an impossible dare-then pulls it off to
perfection. After a meal of biscuit and sledging ration
they started up the snowy slope toward the east.

It was tricky going in the dark, and extreme caution was
needed to watch for crevasses. But off to the southwest
a hazy glow silhouetted the mountain peaks. And after
they had spent an hour in anxious travel, the glow rose
above the ranges-the full moon, directly in their path.

What a sight it was. In its light the edges of the
crevasses were now easily discernible, and every
ridgeline in the snow cast its shadow. They kept on,
guided by the friendly moon, until after midnight,
stopping at intervals to rest, for their weariness was
now becoming a real burden, relieved only by the
knowledge that surely they were getting close. At about
twelve-thirty they had reached a height of perhaps
4,000 feet and the slope leveled off; then slowly it
started to descend, curving slightly toward the
northeast-exactly as it should toward Stromness Bay.

With great expectation they turned to follow it down.
The cold, however, was increasing- or perhaps they were
beginning to feel it more. So at 1 A.M., Shackleton
permitted a brief halt for food. They were up and
moving again at one-thirty. For more than an hour they
traveled downhill, then they came in sight of the water
once more. There, outlined by the moonlight, was Mutton
Island, sitting in the middle of Stromness Bay. As they
made their way along, other familiar landmarks came
into view, and they excitedly pointed them out to one
another. Within an hour or two they would be down. But
then Crean spotted a crevasse off to the right, and
looking ahead they saw other crevasses in their path.

They stopped-confused. They were on a glacier. Only
there were no glaciers surrounding Stromness Bay. They
knew then that their own eagerness had cruelly deceived
them. The island lying just ahead wasn't Mutton Island,
and the landmarks they had seen were the creations of
their imagination. Worsley took out the chart and the
others gathered around him in the moonlight. They had
descended to what must be Fortuna Bay, one of the many
coastal indentations on South Georgia lying to the west
of Stromness Bay. It meant that once more they had to
retrace their steps. Bitterly disappointed, they turned
and began to plod uphill again. For two miserable hours
they kept at it, skirting the edge of Fortuna Bay and
struggling to regain the ground they had lost.

By 5 o'clock they had recovered most of it, and they came to
another line of ridges similar to the ones that had
blocked their way the previous afternoon. Only this
time there appeared to be a small pass. But they were
tired now to the point of exhaustion. They found a
little sheltered spot behind a rock and sat down,
huddled together with their arms around one another for
warmth. Almost at once Worsley and Crean fell asleep,

and Shackleton, too, caught himself nodding. Suddenly
he jerked his head upright. All the years of Antarctic
experience told him that this was the danger sign-the
fatal sleep that trails off into freezing death. He
fought to stay awake for five long minutes, then he
woke the others, telling them that they had slept for
half an hour. Even after so brief a rest, their legs
had stiffened so that it was actually painful to
straighten them, and they were awkward when they moved
off again. The gap through the ridges lay perhaps a
thousand feet above them, and they trudged toward it,

silent with apprehension of what they would find on the
other side. It was just six o'clock when they passed
through, and the first light of dawn showed that no
cliff, no precipice barred the way-only a comfortable
grade so far as they could see. Beyond the valley, the
high hills to the west of Stromness stood away in the
distance. "It looks too good to be true," Worsley said.

They started down. When they had descended to a height
of about 2,500 feet they paused to prepare breakfast.
Worsley and Crean dug a hole for the Primus stove while
Shackleton went to see if he could learn what lay
ahead. He climbed a small ridge by cutting steps in it.

The view from the top was not altogether encouraging.
The slope appeared to end in another precipice, though
it was hard to tell for sure. He started down-and just
then a sound reached him. It was faint and uncertain,
but it could have been a steam whistle. Shackleton knew
it was about 6:30 A.M . the time when the men at
whaling stations usually were awakened. He hurried down
from the ridge to tell Worsley and Crean the exciting
news. Breakfast was gulped down, then Worsley took the
chronometer from around his neck and the three of them
crowded around, staring fixedly at its hands.

If Shackleton had heard the steam whistle at Stromness,
it should blow again to call the men to work at seven
o'clock. It was 6:50 then 6:55. They hardly even
breathed for fear of making a sound.

6:58 . . . 6:59. . . . Exactly to the second, the hoot of
the whistle carried through the thin morning air. They looked
at one another and smiled. Then they shook hands without
speaking. A peculiar thing to stir a man-the sound of a
factory whistle heard on a mountainside. But for them
it was the first sound from the outside world that they
had heard since December, 1914-seventeen unbelievable
months before. In that instant, they felt an
overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment.

Though they had failed dismally even to come close to the
expedition's original objective, they knew now that
somehow they had done much, much more than ever they
set out to do. Shackleton now seemed possessed with
urgency to get down, and though there was an obviously
safer but longer route off to the left, he elected to
press forward and risk the chance of a steep grade.
They gathered up their gear, except for the Primus
stove which was now empty and useless. Each of them
carried one last sledging ration and a single biscuit.

And so they hurried forward, floundering through the
deep snow. But 500 feet down they discovered that
Shackleton had indeed seen a precipice at the end of
the slope. And it was terrifyingly steep, too, almost
like a church steeple. But they were in no humor to
turn back now. Shackleton was lowered over the edge,

and he cut steps in the icy face of the cliff. When he
had reached the 50-foot limit of the rope, the other
two descended to where he stood and the cycle was
repeated over again. It was progress, but slow and
dangerous. It took them three full hours to make the
descent, but finally, about ten o'clock, they reached
the bottom. From here there was only an easy grade down
into the valley, then up the other side. It was a long
climb, however, nearly 3,000 feet in all, and they were
very, very tired. But with only one more ridge to go,

they drove their weary bodies upward. At noon they were
halfway there, and at twelve-thirty they reached a
small plateau. Then at last, just at one-thirty, they
gained the final ridge and stood looking down.

Spread out beneath them, 2,500 feet below, was Stromness
Whaling Station. A sailing ship was tied up to one of
the wharfs and a small whale catcher was entering the
bay. They saw the tiny figures of men moving around the
docks and sheds. For a very long moment they stared
without speaking. There didn't really seem to be very
much to say, or at least anything that needed to be
said. "Let's go down," Shackleton said quietly. Having
got so close, his old familiar caution returned, and he
was determined that nothing was to go wrong now.

The terrain below demanded caution. It was a severe,
ice-covered grade, like the sides of a bowl, sloping in
all directions down toward the harbor. If a man lost
his footing, he might plunge the entire distance, for
there was almost nothing to get hold of. They worked
along the top of the ridge until they found a small
ravine which appeared to offer a footing, and they
started down. After about an hour the sides of the
ravine were getting steeper and a small stream flowed
down the center. As they made their way along, the
stream increased in depth until they were wading
through knee-deep water that was frigidly cold from the
snowy uplands that fed it. About three o'clock they
looked ahead and saw that the stream ended abruptly-in
a waterfall. They reached the edge and leaned over.

There was a drop of about 25 feet. But it was the only
way. The ravine here had grown to the size of a gorge,
and its sides were perpendicular and offered no way of
getting down. There was nothing to do but to go over
the edge. With some trouble they found a boulder large
enough to hold their weight, and they made one end of
the rope fast to it. All three of them pulled off their
Burberrys, in which they wrapped the adz, the cook pot
and Worsley's diary, then pitched them over the side.

Crean was the first to go down. Shackleton and Worsley
lowered him, and he reached the bottom gasping and
choking. Then Shackleton lowered himself down through
the water. Worsley was last. It was an icy ducking,

but they were at the bottom, and from here the ground was
almost level. The rope could not be recovered, but they
picked up the three articles that remained and started
off for the station, now only a mile or so away. Almost
simultaneously, all three of them remembered their
appearance. Their hair hung down almost to their
shoulders, and their beards were matted with salt and
blubber oil. Their clothes were filthy, and threadbare,
and torn. Worsley reached under his sweater and
carefully took out four rusty safety pins that he had
hoarded for almost two years. With them he did his best
to pin up the major rents in his trousers.

"Never for me the lowered banner, never the last
endeavor." -Sir Ernest Shackleton

Kayaking the Islands of South Georgia

by Michael Powers -
When my Danish friend Olaf Malver rang me up and asked me if
I wanted to join a select group of paddlers going to Antarctica
for an exploratory sea kayaking trip, I ran to pack my
cold-weather paddling gear. Olaf personifies the spirit
of his Viking ancestors, having climbed over 200
mountains on three continents. In recent years he has
turned to sea kayaking, with a special passion for
leading trips to remote regions and extreme climates.
Any paddling adventure with him was bound to be fun. It
had long been a dream of mine to explore the islands
and the Southern Ocean surrounding the continent of
Antarctica, yet the time, expense and logistical
problems involved in reaching this remote wilderness
had made this dream unreachable.

Where there were previously few options for transportation to
Antarctica, the situation has now changed. With the end
of the Cold War, many highly specialized resources have
become available for scientific expeditions and
adventure travel. For example, the MS Academik
Shuleykin, a 235-foot Russian research vessel with a
hull strengthened for ice and an Arctic-seasoned crew,
recently appeared in Argentinian waters and began
offering its services to eco-travelers and research
teams wishing to travel to Antarctica. This ship would
provide the passage for our group to this previously
nearly inaccessible landscape. In January 1998, the
midpoint of the austral summer, I joined a half-dozen
paddling friends of Olaf in Ushuaia, Argentina, the
southernmost city in the world. Jonathan Calvert came
from Texas, Larry Rice from Illinois, Dana Isherwood,
Lou Gibbs, Phil Rasori and I came from northern
California, and Olaf's old friend Jan Jantzen flew in
from Copenhagen. Stowing our folding boats onboard the
Russian ship, we set off down the rain-swept Beagle
Channel, bound for Antarctica. That night we entered
Drakes Passage, long regarded by mariners as one of the
most dangerous places in the world to sail a boat.

But in the steel-hulled Shuleykin, equipped with powerful
twin engines and modern navigational equipment, we felt
safe. We set a course toward South Georgia Island, 1125
nautical miles to the southeast. We soon discovered
that the stories we had all heard about this Southern
Ocean were not exaggerated. These seas seemed charged
with conditions more immense, more powerful than those
through which any of us had ever drawn a kayak paddle.
Only here, between 50 and 60 degrees south latitude,
does a continuous band of open water encircle the
earth. Vast tropical seas stand face-to-face with the
frigid polar ice, unrestrained by any land mass. To
further intensify the situation, these winds and
currents become constricted as they squeeze between the
southern tip of South America and the north-thrusting
Antarctic Peninsula. The next morning I emerged on deck
and gazed out over the tempestuous vista that
surrounded us. A seemingly endless succession of ocean
waves, some four or five stories high, raced along with
us in an easterly direction. I wondered how the
Shuleykin would handle these gigantic waves when it was
time for us to return west and face the onslaught
head-on. The scene conjured up memories of rapids on a
white-water river, on an oceanic scale. The words of
explorer Robert Meithe came to mind, who once observed,

"Cape Horn is the place where the devil made the
biggest mess he could." For three and a half days and
nights we surged along at 12 knots, the powerful wind,
waves and currents at our backs. For those of us who
were heading to Antarctica for the first time, the
ocean around us seemed vast and utterly wild. From my
favorite vantage deck at the bow, I gazed out over the
ever-changing panorama of seething seas and sky for
hours. In the evenings I would go down to the lecture
room on the second deck to learn more about this
fascinating world from lectures and slide shows that
the American and European naturalists and historians
onboard presented. There was also an extraordinary
series of videos, Life in the Freezer, that the British
had produced about Antarctica. Up on the bridge deck
there was a library stuffed with books about natural
history and the exploration of the area.

When I could absorb no more information, there was a sauna
back down on deck two that the crew kept super-heated, hotter
than any sauna I had ever known. There the Russians
introduced me to their custom of rubbing honey on their
perspiring bodies, claiming that it was great for the
skin. At about 54° S, we began to sense a drop in the
air temperature, a sign that we were crossing the
Antarctic Convergence. The naturalists explained that
this is a region where deep currents from the north
collide with frigid, denser polar ones, forcing the
nutrient-laden waters to the surface. The variety and
concentration of aquatic and air-borne wildlife
confirmed that we had entered one of the richest
feeding grounds in the world. Pelagic birds,

some of which I had never seen in the northern hemisphere,
were much in evidence here: pintados, prions, southern giant
petrels and royal albatrosses with a wingspan of up to
12 feet. Three hundred sixty million birds of 20 to 30
species are estimated to migrate through or live
fulltime in Antarctica, including six species of
albatross and countless flocks of agile, swift-moving
penguins. The penguins displayed remarkable teamwork as
they darted, dove and leapt along the surface of the
sea in pursuit of prey. We also spotted fin and
humpbacked whales, seagoing fur seals and pods of orcas
and bottlenose dolphins that had come to join the
feeding frenzy. Paul Konrad, an editor from Wildbird
magazine who was also a passenger on the Shuleykin,

explained how the whales and dolphins came here to feed
on the immense quantities of krill that swarmed
invisibly through the water around us. The day before
we were due to arrive at South Georgia Island, Olaf
announced, "It's time to put our boats together!" But a
20-knot, near-freezing wind was whistling outside, so
we tried assembling the first of our three folding
kayaks inside the ship's bar. Alas, the big doubles
proved much too long for that cozy sanctuary. We moved
out onto the wind-swept deck, clutching the various
pieces of our craft tightly to prevent them from being
blown overboard. The ship had slowed down now, and big
waves were rolling up and overtaking us from astern.

A Russian crewman cautioned us always to keep a firm grip
on a guardrail whenever we moved near the edge of the
rolling, pitching deck. A glance at the seething sea
racing past and no one required a second warning. The
aluminum pieces of the boat frames were a struggle to
fit together with our numb fingers, but by nightfall
our three kayaks, as well as a unique collapsible
white-water canoe of Norwegian design that
photojournalist Larry Rice had brought along, were all
lashed down securely on the aft deck, ready for
launching. Later that night, I visited the bridge and
found the officers on watch gathered around the ship's
radio, following the weather reports closely. A big
cyclonic depression had developed 250 miles to the
northwest, but it appeared to be moving away from us.

Small icebergs were scattered across the radar screen,
and a sizable one loomed about six miles out at 2:00.
At 12 knots and surging even faster in these following
seas, even the Shuleykin with its hull strengthened for
ice, could not risk a collision with something that
size. Back down in the lecture room, Russian-born
naturalist Peter Ourusoff began briefing us about the
wildlife we would encounter around South Georgia
Island. "Leopard seals are widely regarded as the most
dangerous killers of wildlife in Antarctica, yet it's
the big fur seal bulls in herds on the beaches that
tend to be aggressive toward anything, including human
beings, who wander into their territory." We would soon
find out that he was not exaggerating. By dawn the next
morning, the Shuleykin was at anchor in Grytviken Bay
at 54° 17' S, 36° 30' W, offshore from an historical
Norwegian whaling station long since shut down.

Years of Antarctic storms had battered and crumbled the row
of wooden structures ringing the little cove. Long
before the seal hunters had come, the great British
navigator Captain James Cook had anchored here when he
discovered South Georgia Island in 1775. The sky was
overcast, but the wind was light and the weather seemed
to be holding steady. At a signal from Olaf, we pulled
on our dry suits and launched our kayaks from a landing
platform that the crew had lowered down to the water.

We gathered into formation and began to paddle towards
shore, where a jagged range of ice-clad mountains
loomed above. A flock of swift macaroni penguins dove
and leapt nearby, porpoising to get a better look at
us. My paddling partner, Lou Gibbs, and I landed our
kayak on a narrow strip of sandy beach near the
crumbling remains of the whaling station, while the
other paddlers explored the waterfront by kayak. We
knew that the legendary Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest
Shackleton was buried here somewhere. In 1915, after
his ship the Endurance became ice-bound in the Weddell
Sea and was ground into splinters, he and his men
subsisted for months on pack ice. When the pack ice
finally broke up, they sailed their two lifeboats to
uninhabited Elephant Island, where they found scant
shelter from the Antarctic weather in a rocky cave.

Shackleton then took a few of his men and sailed 800
miles in the most seaworthy of the two boats, through
the storm- and iceberg-filled Southern Ocean. Their
long sea journey climaxed in a surf landing on the
blustery west coast of South Georgia Island. Even then,
however, their trials were not over. Protected only by
the tattered rags that remained of their clothing, they
climbed across the glacier-covered mountains to reach
the whaling station at Grytviken. Incredibly, not one
of the Endurance crew perished during the eighteen
months they were lost in Antarctica. When a journalist
back in England asked Shackleton if he considered his
expedition to be a success or a failure, he replied,

"A successful expedition, sir, is one from which all hands
return alive." Down the beach from where we landed,
a herd of fur seals watched our every move. When I
pulled a camera out of a waterproof case and took a few
steps in their direction, a half-ton bull with
inch-long canine teeth responded by charging straight
toward me. I leapt over low hummocks of sedge grass,
making a hasty and undignified retreat. A few minutes'
walk away, we came upon Shackleton's grave. There, in
the company of a few headstones from early Norwegian
whalers, sat a stone marking the final resting place of
this intrepid explorer. Engraved on the stone was a
fragment of a poem by the English poet Robert Browning:

"...that a man should strive to the uttermost for his
life prize." From there we wandered through the ruins
of the old whaling station. Approaching the edge of the
grouping of buildings, we were surprised to find a
sailboat tied up at an old whaler's dock. Tim and
Pauline Carr greeted us warmly. They had sailed all the
way to South Georgia Island from England on their small
craft. The boat appeared impossibly small (only ten or
twelve meters in length) to have made that long
journey. They invited us to come aboard, and Pauline
shared some harrowing stories of her own encounters
with the fur seals, confessing that she had taken to
carrying a big stick when she hiked around the island.

Brandishing the stick usually discouraged an attack,
but not always. "Last week I was walking down the
beach, and this big brute lumbered up and grabbed the
business end of my staff in his mouth. We played
tug-of-war for quite a few moments, but he finally let
go." She warned us about beaches farther along the
coast where the really big herds of fur seal were
entrenched. "Two sea kayakers came here a few months
ago, after paddling back from Hound Bay. They tried to
make camp there for the night, but the seals were so
aggressive they had to get back in their kayaks and
paddle on to another beach." We returned to our kayak
and paddled northward along the rocky, corrugated
shoreline that stretched northward beyond Grytviken
cove. As we approached each beach, we could smell the
distinctive, heady aroma of sea animals that feed on a
diet of fish and krill. Almost every landing spot we
found was packed with penguins and herds of fur seals.

We paddled back to the Shuleykin before dark. The ship
weighed anchor and moved farther down the coast during
the night. For the next three days we explored the
protected eastern side of the island, launching each
morning and paddling the most interesting stretches of
the rugged shoreline. Having unladen boats made it easy
to land and launch on the steep, rocky beaches. After
paddling all day in the biting cold, it was a relief to
return to the haven of the Shuleykin each night. A hot
sauna and a warm meal seemed preferable to remaining
ashore in the midst of the territorial fur seals after
dark. One morning when a moderate swell was running,

Jonathan capsized in the icy water during an attempt to
launch from the mother ship. After ducking back into
his cabin for a dry pair of socks, he got back in his
kayak and launched successfully. "That water was a bit
cold," he admitted later. "But I'm glad it happened
here, within easy reach of my dry cabin, and not in
Greenland where Olaf and I camped out of our kayaks
continuously for ten days." The next day we entered a
large, sweeping inlet named St. Andrews Bay. A mile or
so of broad beach swept around to rocky points at
either side, bisected by a large, silt-colored stream
that rushed from the mountains above, down to the sea.

Dozens of fur and elephant seals guarded all but a
small section of the beach, but we aimed for that spot
and were able to land without incident. Every stretch
of beach not fully occupied by seals was covered by
juvenile and adult king penguins. Both sexes of the
stately kings sport vivid golden yellow markings on the
sides of their heads, similar to the emperor penguins
that live on the Antarctic mainland. They waddled
about, uttering a medley of hoots, squeaks and trumpet
sounds, and waving their flipper wings emphatically to
resolve territorial disputes. Their nesting sites
extended along the banks of the river as well, and up
into the hills above. The naturalists onboard the
Shuleykin had told us that this colony alone probably
numbered over 200,000 birds. For the most part they
seemed unperturbed by our presence, although we were
careful not to blunder into their nesting areas.

The skies above the penguin rookery were filled with
circling, predatory skua gulls. As I watched, a pair of
powerful gulls swooped down on a nest that a penguin
had stepped away from for a moment and devoured its
unguarded egg. We followed the river up into a
steep-walled canyon in the mountains above, where
hiking on the loose rock became increasingly difficult.

We spotted a herd of wild reindeer, descendants of
animals that whalers had brought from Norway nearly a
century ago. They were the only land-based mammals we
saw on South Georgia Island. They appeared wary and
rather weatherworn, a small vestige of man's early
presence on the island like the old whaling station at
Grytviken. Our final day paddle along the coast of
South Georgia Island led us deep into Drygalski Fjord,

near the southernmost tip of the island. Paddling into
the fjord was like entering into a flooded and frozen
Yosemite Valley. Glacial ice, instead of waterfalls,
flowed silently down from the towering cliffs above our
heads. The mountains rose up steeply from the sea to
form a continuous range of sharp-edged peaks that
reminded me of the Alps. Even here in the fjord, each
time we paddled around an exposed point, we felt a
sudden increase in the energy of the ocean swells and
wind that were wrapping around from the south.

I shuddered when I contemplated what kayaking along the
exposed, storm-battered western side of the island
would be like. Olaf had told us about his friends, an
American and two Australians, who came here last year
and tried to paddle all the way around the island. They
started up north by crossing over to Bird Island and
then proceeded south along the west coast of the main
island. Conditions quickly grew so intense that they
had to land through big surf and rocks and portage back
across the mountains to reach the relatively protected
northeast coast again. They then paddled down to the
southeast tip of the island, past where we were now,
and tried to make it around Cape Disappointment.

Once again, when they reached the fully exposed side of the
island, breaking waves and howling winds forced them
back. At a signal from Olaf, the group headed to a
beach at the back of a small, rocky cove. A herd of fur
seals was gathered around in a circle, watching two
bulls who stood facing each other, lunging at each
other and roaring. We assumed that since they were busy
fighting among themselves they wouldn't pay any
attention to us, so we landed. But when a young bull
shuffled over and tried to nip Phil Rasori on the butt,
we decided it was time to get back on the water and
continue exploring the fjord. Reboarding the Shuleykin
that evening, we headed west around Cape
Disappointment. For the first time, we were headed
straight into the full force of the Antarctic weather.

While sailing in following seas earlier, the bow of the
ship had risen thirty feet above the water; now it
became engulfed in white water each time we collided
with a big oncoming swell. None of my paddling
companions voiced any regrets about the fact that our
boats were lashed down on the aft deck again. I made my
way back to the fantail and gazed at a jagged row of
deep blue mountain peaks, slowly vanishing into the
darkness behind us. I could see why the early explorers
had described South Georgia Island as "the Himalayas of
the Southern Ocean." Throughout the night I was
awakened by grinding sounds and shuddering sensations
echoing through the ship. The captain ordered our
forward speed reduced, first to 10 knots, then even
slower, as trained eyes constantly scanned the sea

Most feared by Antarctic seamen were growlers,
low, dense masses of ice that lie mostly beneath the
surface of the sea and are nearly invisible. But
apparently the ice pack wasn't yet thick enough to be a
threat to the tough skin of our ship, and we plowed
slowly onward. The next morning we awoke to a sea
filled with millions of broken pieces of ice the size
of pianos or smaller, interspersed with larger,
glistening blue icebergs. Our trip leaders described
this as merely "brash ice" conditions, and reassured us
that it posed no threat to the thick steel hull of the
Shuleykin. Olle Carlsson, a Swedish naturalist and one
of that extraordinary breed of folks who feel compelled
to return, year after year, to Antarctica, observed
that the El Niño cycle had brought exceptionally heavy ice
conditions to the Southern Ocean this summer season.

"For centuries," he explained, "a river of ice has
flowed away from Antarctica in all directions into the
sea." Scientists estimate that more than 348 cubic
miles of icebergs calve away from the continent each
year, from a vast ice cap that is nearly 5000 meters
thick in places and comprises 70 percent of the world's
fresh water. The next afternoon, as we arrived at the
South Orkney Islands, two dagger-like peaks rose up in
a lowering sky. "I doubt they've ever been climbed,"
reflected Olaf, staring up at the ice-covered
pinnacles. We gathered on the deck, hoping we would be
able to launch our boats, but as we entered Gibbon Bay
on Coronation Island, pack ice driven by strong
westerly winds grated ominously against the armored
flanks of the Shuleykin, ruling out any chance of

We moved around to the lee side of the weatherworn point,
but found the wind still howling, and the brash ice just
as thick as before. Returning to Gibbon Bay, we spotted a
jagged lead that had now opened in the ice, leading toward shore.
Still, Jonathan Chester, the expedition's leader and a veteran
of many long Antarctic journeys, remained uneasy. He
was concerned that a shift in wind direction might slam
the lead shut as quickly as it had opened, trapping any
kayakers who had paddled away from the ship. We settled
for a fast run toward shore in a Zodiac to get a closer
look at the wildlife there. Twenty minutes later,

we approached a powerfully built, ten-foot-long leopard
seal resting on top of an ice floe. As I stared into
his glistening black eyes, I recalled the riveting
account I'd read of two of Shackleton's men being
attacked by one of these animals during the months they
were stranded on the drifting pack ice. A huge leopard
seal had pursued one of the terrified men, first atop
the ice and then by diving into the water and following
the man's shadow as he ran across the ice. Then the
leopard seal burst to the surface ahead of him and
charged again. Fortunately, Frank Wild, Shackleton's
second-in-command, arrived with a gun at that moment
and shot the big carnivore as it turned to charge him.

From the South Orkneys, we continued southwest across
the Weddell Sea toward the mainland of Antarctica.
About halfway across, when everyone had become
accustomed again to the steady droning of the ship's
engines and the rhythmic rolling in the open sea, a pod
of orcas surfaced near the ship. The captain
immediately ordered the engines reduced to idle, and
passengers and crew rushed on deck. The sleek, powerful
cetaceans repeatedly burst to the surface, the sound of
their explosive breathing clearly audible. Their big
dorsal fins knifed across the surface of the sea and
their glistening black backs flexed as they swam. They
were obviously aware of the ship looming above them,

but, like most of the other wildlife we encountered in
Antarctica, they seemed completely unconcerned by our
presence. A half-hour later, the whales dove and
vanished as suddenly as they had appeared. As we
approached Hope Bay on the relatively sheltered eastern
side of the Antarctic Peninsula, I sprinted up to the
bridge to get the latest weather information. Like all
of the sea kayakers on board, I was praying that the
powerful winds that had been blowing since we left
South Georgia Island would fall off. Still, conditions
remained unsettled as we drew near the mainland. The
wind blew steadily at about 20 knots with occasional
higher gusts, and the surface of the sea was covered
with whitecaps. Jonathan decided it was too dangerous
to launch the kayaks. Once again, we resorted to a
Zodiac ride to shore. When we saw the icy surf and
howling wind that the crew had to negotiate to get us
ashore, however, we once again appreciated Jonathan's
judgment. We stepped ashore on the Antarctic continent,

where a rookery of Adele penguins huddled on a small,
windswept, rocky beach. The omnipresent predatory skuas
circled watchfully overhead. Within moments of our
arrival, the wind began gusting even more strongly and
the surf crashing on the beach seemed to be steadily
growing more powerful, so everyone made a dash for the
Zodiac. We made it back out through the surf, but had
to turn quickly to avoid a football field-sized iceberg
that the wind was driving between us and the mother
ship. If we had been in the folding kayaks, it would
have been very tough, perhaps impossible, to get off
that beach and punch through the six-foot shore break.

That night we cleared the Antarctic Sound and headed
north towards the South Shetland Islands. The weather
seemed to be settling down at last. We arrived at Baily
Head on the west coast of Deception Island, about 120
miles north of continental Antarctica, early in the
morning of February 8. The ship's charts revealed a
unique, ring-shaped island: a circle of volcanic hills
and mountains surrounding a flooded caldera. Already in
our dry suits, seven of us assembled on the fantail in
the soft pastel light before dawn. There was a moderate
swell running, and the weather to the northeast was

Olaf, Dana, Jonathan, Philip, Jan, canoeist Larry and
I all launched our boats from the lowered platform.
We turned north, toward a pair of dramatic
sea stacks that our map designated as "Sewing Machine"
(a massive, box-shaped rock) and "Needle" (a slender
spire of stone that rose about fifty feet above the
surface of the sea). Olaf remained alert for breaking
waves or tricky currents as we approached the two
edifices of gray, polished granite, but everyone passed
through the gap between them without a problem. We
continued along the coast, paddling through glassy
seas, and rounded a final point of north-thrusting
land. Shielded now from the prevailing western swells,

we were able to kayak right up to the base of the
palisade of brown and olive-colored cliffs that rose
nearly straight up, to a height of about 300 feet above
the water. Hundreds of sea birds, mostly gulls and cape
petrels, circled in the sky above or peered down at us
from their nests on the ledges high above. We came to a
hundred-foot-wide opening in the cliffs, beyond which
we could see the island's flooded inner caldera
surrounded by snow-covered mountains.

We soon discovered why the early sailors had named this
Neptune's Bellows. The wind whistled through the narrow
channel, most likely katabatic winds generated by
icefields around the caldera. I remembered Olle's
description of katabatic winds he had experienced
around mountains in Antarctica, rising from 5 to 75 mph
in a matter of minutes. Luckily, the winds remained
moderate that day, and we slipped through the Bellows
without incident. Ringing the caldera, buildings and
machinery that had once digested cetaceans now lay
crushed and scattered by the repeated onslaughts of mud
and lava.

Volcanic eruptions had rocked the island for
years, forcing the British and Norwegians to abandon
their whaling operations there long ago. We paddled
deeper into the caldera, toward a beach where clouds of
steam rose up from geo-thermal springs and hung
suspended in the cold, still air. Approaching a cloud
of steam on a nearby beach, we found a pool of heated
water bubbling up invitingly. Without bothering to
strip off my dry suit, I lay down, immersing myself up
to my neck. After hours of kayaking, the warmth soaking
into my tired muscles felt wonderful. It was a
satisfying conclusion to kayaking at last among the
wild, beautiful islands of Antarctica.

Michael Powers is a photojournalist who specializes in
paddling in wild and remote areas of the world. He and
fellow Tsunami Ranger Eric Soares have completed a book,
Extreme Sea Kayaking, published in the spring of 1999
by Ragged Mountain Press 
Sea Kayaking South Georgia

The Living Edens
South Georgia Island Island


Until the 1982 conflict in the Falkland
Islands commanded the world's attention, few had heard
of South Georgia Island. Southeast of the Falklands,
South Georgia is lost in the midst of the Southern
Ocean, one of the most remote regions on earth. South
Georgia's climate is dominated by the freezing effects
of the Antarctic continent 1,000 miles to the south.
Glaciers coat more than half the island, and the
scenery is spectacular, as if the Alps had been dropped
down in the south Atlantic. Getting There South Georgia
lacks roads or airports. The only access is by sea, and
the journey can take up to 10 days battling against
south Atlantic gales. Alastair Fothergill, producer of
The Living Edens: South Georgia Island, and his veteran
Antarctic team sailed on the yacht Golden Fleece,
(Available for charter through Victory Adventures)
navigated by owners Jerome and Sally Poncet.

"Sally and Jerome were among the very first people ever to take a
yacht to Antarctica, and their knowledge of South
Georgia is second to none," Fothergill says. Golden
Fleece became the crew's home during the eight months
of filming, spread throughout two years. Filming was
difficult because of the extreme cold. "At one stage,
the yacht's water tanks completely froze," Fothergill
says. "On another occasion, a massive storm pushed the
yacht up onto an ice-covered beach." The team spent
that night sleeping on the shore. Fothergill also has
produced Life in the Freezer, a six-part BBC television
series exploring the delicate balance of nature in the
Antarctic region. "Making Life in the Freezer, I was
lucky enough to visit many special places in
Antarctica, but none of them were as spectacular as
South Georgia. I knew I had to go back and make a film
that would reveal a complete year in this island's
extraordinary natural history," Fothergill says.
Breeding Oasis Despite its isolation, South Georgia is
a vital breeding oasis for some of the greatest
concentrations of wildlife on the planet.

More than 2 million southern fur seals -- 95 percent of the
world's population -- crowd onto the island each summer.
Half the world's population of southern elephant seals also
come to breed. Millions of penguins make the island
their home; in some places, complete hillsides are
covered with their nests. A quarter of a million
albatrosses return each year, including the spectacular
wandering albatross. With its 3-meter wingspan, the
wandering albatross is a truly spectacular bird, and
south Georgia is home to half the world's population.
Under the cover of darkness to avoid predators, an
estimated 10 million other seabirds -- petrels and
prions -- return each night to nest in underground
burrows. Cycle of Life The Living Edens: South Georgia
Island reveals for the first time the complete
year-round cycle of life on South Georgia.

Wandering albatrosses take a full year to raise their young,
and the film makers follow one particular chick through the
entire process. In the depths of winter, it sits all
alone on its nest as temperatures drop to -30 degrees
Celsius and 100-knot winds batter the island. King
penguin chicks survive this unforgiving weather by
huddling together for warmth. Cameraman Michael
Richards braved wind-chill temperatures down to -70
degrees to film this extraordinary sequence.

The Living Edens: South Georgia Island portrays the
natural history of an unspoiled Eden in the icy grip of
Antarctica. BBC radio interview with Alastair
Foothergill in Real Audio or read about his adventures

SAIL to South Georgia abard the GOLDEN FLEECE

Bird Island, South Georgia (see map below)

Position: 54°00' S, 38°03' W, Jordan Cove, Bird Island,
South Georgia. Chief activities: Population biology,
ecosystem dynamics and behavior of seabirds and seals.
Occupied: Intermittently between 1958 and 1982,
continuously 22 September 1982 to the present. Bird
Island lies off the north-west tip of South Georgia.

The island's northern coast consists mainly of sheer
cliffs rising to 365 meters; the southern coast is more
accessible with numerous beaches. The island is 5 km
long, up to 800 m wide. Below 150 meters it is
predominately covered in tussock grass with rock, scree
and mosses above this altitude. There is no permanent
snow or ice on the island; the yearly temperature range
is from -10°C to 10°C. The first permanent hut at Bird
Island was established in 1958 by the Falkland Islands
Government. A living hut and two further small huts
were added in 1963 by the United States Antarctic
Research Programme. BAS has supported summer work on
the populations of birds and seals since 1971.

A new hut on concrete piers was built in 1981-82 which
provided accommodation, laboratory and office space for
up to 8 people for year-round occupation. The 1995-96
summer saw the start of a two-summer programme to bring
the facilities at Bird Island up to a standard
comparable to the other BAS stations. Part of the
improvements involved a better water collection and
treatment system. The research station comprises three
main buildings with living accommodation, office and
laboratory space for up to eight people. Around the
island there are several field huts situated near bird
colonies to aid the science programmes. Six to eight
people usually work at the station during the summer
and four remain for the winter. The station is serviced
by the two BAS ships, RRS James Clark Ross and RRS
Ernest Shackleton , three times per year.

Bird Island has a rich diversity of wildlife and is afforded
special protection as a Site of Special Scientific
Interest. It is home to about 50,000 breeding pairs of
penguins, 30,000 pairs of albatrosses, 700,000
nocturnal petrels and 65,000 breeding fur seals. In
total, that amounts to one bird or seal for every 1.5 m
2 making Bird Island one of the richest sites for
wildlife anywhere in the world.


Captain Cook was looking for the
southern continent but instead discovered an ice
covered island, which he named South Georgia. James
Cook was born in the Yorkshire village of Marton on
October 27, 1728. He went to sea at the age of 18. He
became an accomplished mathematician in his spare time
and was offered a command of his own ship but refused
and joined the Royal Navy. His talents became known and
the Admiralty placed later in command of the Endeavour
which was to take a number of scientists to the Pacific
Ocean for observance of Venus. The Endeavour departed
England in 1768 and after visiting Tahiti,

he discovered New Zealand and claimed it for Great
Britain. Sailing west he sighted the east coast of
Australia and then claimed the whole of eastern
Australia as a British possession. The Admiralty
promoted Cook to Commander and he was instructed to
travel south to find Bouvet's Cape Circumcision. The
Admiralty outfitted the newly purchased Resolution and
Adventure with the Resolution being Cook's flagship.

It was only 110 feet long and 35 feet across the beam and
the Adventure even smaller. Cook sailed toward the
uncharted waters of the south and they found themselves
at the edge of an endless pack of ice. For two months
Cook sailed alongside the pack, looking for an entrance
to travel further south then with the onset of winter
he went north to the Southern Island of New Zealand
after sailing some 10,000 miles. He returned to the
Antarctica and continued his search for a way through
to the south. He said " It extended east and west far
beyond the reach of our sight, while the southern half
of the horizon was illuminated by rays of light which
were reflected from the ice to a considerable height.

It was indeed my opinion that this ice extends quite to
the Pole, or perhaps joins to some land to which it has
been fixed since creation". He again wintered in New
Zealand, and then sailed to Tierra del Fuego continuing
in a northeasterly direction. They sighted land and
thought they had found the southern continent but
instead it was an island which he named South Georgia.

SOUTH GEORGIA Island is about 100 miles long. It has
140 glaciers on it, so it's not an average island. The
mountainous rugged interior is a geologic continuation
of the Andes Chain. It is considered being inside
Antarctica and is unsurpassed as a wilderness &
wildlife experience with many birds, fur and elephant
seals. Wildlife numbers peak during the breeding season
from October till February. It is perhaps the greatest
seabird island in the world having King, Adelie,
Gentoo, Chinstrap, Magellanic, Macaroni, and Rockhopper
penguins; Antarctic Giant-Petrel, Cape Petrel, the
elegant Snow Petrel, Antarctic and Slender-billed
prions, Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Snowy Sheathbill, and

To be in the midst of so an abundance of breeding
penguins feeding their ravenous offspring, is a
spectacular natural experience. The King Penguin
Rookeries on South Georgia are unique in that these
Penguins are on a staggered 18 month breeding cycle. As
can be seen in this panorama there are chicks loosing
their down and almost ready to fledge in their adult
feathers. There are also many birds with newly lain
eggs, brooding on their feet. With their staggered
breeding cycle the South Georgia King Rookeries are in
existence year round. These are the only penguin
rookeries in Antarctica that are in operation all year.

South Georgia is almost pure wildlife from one end to
the other. More than half its sharp, glacier-strewn
terrain lies under a year-round blanket of snow and
ice, with only the coastal fringes sporting any
vegetation - mainly patches of tussock grass, moss and
lichen. It is a barren harsh place with an Antarctic
climate. This harsh climate is a result of the
Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic Convergence Zone
is caused by cold water from Antarctica that flows
outward from the continent to a point where it dives
down to the abysmal deeps of the ocean. The place where
this cold water ends and the warm water begins forms a
ring around the continent and is called the Antarctic

The island's inhabitants consist of a small British
military detachment at King Edward Point and a
British Antarctic Survey research team stationed
at the northwestern tip. Captain Cook's descriptions of
the island and of its massive fur seal population set
off a rush of sealers. By the 1830s, the fur seals had
been almost exterminated. Grytviken was the first
whaling station in South Georgia employing about 300
men during the peak. Some 175,000 whales were processed
here, including the largest animal ever recorded , a
110 ft blue whale. Many of its abandoned buildings are
now open to visitors. The Grytviken whaling station
from a photo of the 1920s By the British Magistrate,
Edward Binnie

Whaling Station The Island of South Georgia lies in the
South Atlantic sea, about 800 miles (1280 Km) east
south east of the Falkland Islands. It is about
100miles (160Km) long and lies on a roughly North West
to South East line, 37 degs West, 54.5degs South,
approximately the same latitude south as Sheffield in
England is north. The island was first sighted as early
as 1700 by Captain Edmond Halley on board the merchant
vessel Paramour. Due to bad weather he probably did not
realize what lay through the fog. In 1756, the Spaniard
Gregorio Jerez on board Leon came close to the island
in bad weather. It is almost certain that they saw the
land mass but the first landing and exploration took
place in 1775 when Captain James Cook on board HMS
Resolution landed on the island. He claimed the island,

at what is now known as Possession Bay, on behalf of
King George III on 17th January that year, naming it in
his honour. Cook described the island as: "Lands doomed
by nature to perpetual frigidness: never to feel the
warmth of the sun's rays; whose horrible and savage
aspect I have not words to describe". He was the first
to accurately map the island. Captain Cook had referred
to the number of seals on the island and by 1786 the
first sealing expedition had taken place. There were
two main peaks in sealing on the island, the first
between 1786 and 1802 and the second between 1814 and
1823. Whaling commenced in 1904, the station at
Grytviken being the first to open, followed by several
others. The whaling stations would process just about
any part of the whale, producing oil and fertilizers.

A number of nationalities operated from the island,
including the Argentinians, British, Japanese
and Norwegians. Recovery of the fur seal has been good
and there are now said to be 1,555,000 of them on the
island, about 96% of the world population. There are
also believed to be in the region of 110,000 breeding
female elephant seals, producing 54% of the world pup
population.* Since 1982 the island has become well
known to the outside world and a number of passenger
ships visit Grytviken every year. In comparison, there
were 2 visits during the 1979-80 season, and I have
been told that this season the total was 36.

There is a museum at Grytviken, known as the South Georgia
Museum and although there is reference to the whaling
industry, it lays out the history rather than
glorifying it. The museum is set up in the old whaling
station managers villa and visitors can also take a
signposted tour of the station to discover how it all
worked. I have been advised that web pages about the
museum are being prepared and will be published in the
near future. There were strict quotas on the numbers
and age of the whales that could be slaughtered and
Government Officers were based at King Edward Point in
the same cove as Grytviken to monitor the whaling
activity After the whaling finished, British Antarctic
Survey (BAS) took over the buildings at King Edward
point, the main sciences studied being marine and
terrestrial biology, meteorology and ornithology,

backed up by a number of support staff, of which I was
one of the radio operator mechanics in 1979/80. BAS
operated from here until 1982 when they were kicked out
by Argentinian invaders. Once the British Military
evicted the Argentinian Forces it became their base. On
a visit there at Christmas 1992, I was pleased to see
that apart from the necessary trappings of Military
life, the immediate area had remained largely
unchanged. If anything, the wildlife population,
particularly the fur seal, had increased in numbers.

It looks as though BAS will be returning to the location
within the next year. Some of the old buildings may
have to be brought down to make space for more suitable
accommodation for the scientists. Sir Ernest Henry
Shackleton The great explorer Shackleton visited South
Georgia on a number of occasions. In December 1914 he
left South Georgia on board Endurance. Midwinters Day
(June 22 1915) was spent by the Filchner ice shelf.

The ship got stuck in ice and was abandoned on October
27th. With no civilization nearby, Shackleton and some
of his crew made an epic journey by land and sea, part
of the crew being left behind at Elephant Island. On
May 9th 1916, Shackleton and his men made landfall at
King Haakon bay South Georgia. They crossed land and
arrived at Stromness Whaling Station on 20th May. The
rest of the crew were eventually rescued from Elephant
Island on 30th August 1916. Shackleton visited the
island again in 1922. Whilst moored up at King Edward
Cove on 5th January 1922, Shackleton suffered a heart
attack and died. He was later buried at the whalers
cemetery next to Grytviken Whaling Station.

Roy & Pat Beckemeyer's Grytviken Page

ANTARCTIC TRIP - South Georgia Island, Grytviken
Whaling Station, January 24, 1998 Last updated: 17
February, 1998

From my journal: "A sunny day at the end of an
otherwise gray week. We have come again to land after
leaving the shores of Tierra del Fuego four days ago.
Days of waves and clouds, mist and wind, of
albatrosses, all wings, and of storm petrels with
dancing feet. This morning I awoke at 0500. Sitting up
and looking out the window of our cabin I saw the
jagged black and white forms of mountains and glaciers,
a stark backdrop of light and dark against which
whirled hundreds of wheeling Antarctic Prions. I was
instantly awake. Open-mouthed, I watched the birds wing
by for almost four minutes. On deck the mountains
continued to march by the starboard side of the ship,

many of the peaks unbelievably sharp and angular,
chipped by glaciers much as flint was chipped by antler
when men still used stone tools. All the glacier
terminology took meaning on those starboard shores:
cirques, horns, aretes, hanging valleys, tide-water
glaciers, crevasses. As we round into Cumberland Bay
the Grytviken Whaling Station comes into view. Rusty
orange structures stretch across the base of Grytviken
mountain, adding a slash of warm color to the olive,

brown and gray slopes in the foreground. Grytviken
itself looms overhead. We glimpse a dam and reservoir
on the side of the hill and angular segments of water
pipe haphazardly descending to the buildings below. The
pipes have sprung several leaks and brilliant streams
of water ascend the sky, break into spray, and wet the
hillside. A group of King Penguins stand at the edge of
the spray soberly enjoying the sprinkle. A white cross
within a white-fenced cemetery gleams in the sunlight,

nearly as brilliant as the white breasts of the
penguins. We will gather there later for a toast to Sir
Ernest Shackleton, one of the bold and honorable
explorers who opened the way for future visitors to
these waters and these lands. Here we experience many
firsts: our initial zodiac ride, our first encounter
with a pugnacious little fur seal, our first look into
the doe-eyed dreamy face of an Elephant Seal, our first
encounter with King and Gentoo Penguins. We reboard the
ship to find charcoal grills and music on deck and
enjoy an afternoon barbecue with the residents of
Grytviken. Incongruous Latin music mixes with the cold
salty air of the Southern Sea quite nicely, it turns
out, whetting our appetites for more sights and sounds
and experiences." - Roy Beckemeyer, January 24, 1998

From Pat's journal: "Is there anything as incongruous
as a downy penguin in repose? Wings and feet askew as
if dropped from a great height - yet looking so
comfortable. As if arranged feather by feather on a bed
of silk. But this bed is rock, the wind is cold, and
its body is pecked and pushed by innumerable other
penguins. Yet it rests, oblivious to the world!"
- Pat Beckemeyer, January, 1998

Review of movie about South Georgia:

Based on Caroline Alexander's best-selling book, "The
Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic
Expedition", the giant-screen film SHACKLETON'S
ANTARCTIC ADVENTURE will tell the dramatic tale of
explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated 1914-1916
British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. While
never accomplishing its goal of the first crossing of
the Antarctic continent, this expedition has become a
testament to heroism and human endurance, with its men
surviving nearly two years in the barren, frigid
Antarctic after their ship was caught in pack ice and
eventually crushed.

In 1914, Antarctica-bound Ernest Shackleton set sail
aboard the Endurance with a 27-man crew, intent on
becoming the first man to cross the frozen continent on
foot, through the South Pole. Today the world is wired,
space stations orbit the earth, satellites land on
asteroids and edge-of-the-world explorers are never
more than a phone call away. Shackleton's Antarctic
Adventure seeks to transport us to an earlier time,
when a brave wave farewell from the bow of a boat was
the adventurer's last contact with the known world.

Shackleton's extraordinary combination of good luck,
bad luck, good judgment and bad judgment make any
telling of his three-year odyssey nothing less than
engrossing. The IMAX® filmmakers here struggle to find
their storytelling voice, wavering between documentary,
docu-drama and dramatic recreation, and the Big Movie's
swirl of styles distracts from the simple suspense and
thrill of Shackleton's real-life adventure. But never
mind all that, the film is a success because of its two
photographers: Frank Hurley and Reed Smoot. One
traveled around the world and shot film for the
Endurance in 1916 and the other travels around the
world and shoots Big Movies today. Both men knew how to
photograph Antarctica so that it stuns.

Before the Endurance expedition, Shackleton had made a
name for himself in Antarctica. He had hoped to become
the first man to reach the geographic South Pole, but
bad weather and good judgment forced him to turn back.
Others beat him to the Pole, but rather than being
obsessed with achieving specific "firsts," Shackleton
was driven by an apparent need to test human

A foot crossing of Antarctica posed just the sort of
David versus Goliath challenge he thirsted for. But the
journey fast becomes more than a challenge when
Antarctica's Weddell Sea freezes around the sturdy
Endurance. The agonizing ice grip tightens month by
month and finally crushes the wooden ship, but not the
spirits of indefatigable Ernest Shackleton. He vows to
survive and to return every last man to safety. A
crewman at the time refers to him as "surely the
greatest living optimist." It takes nearly two years of
drifting on ice floes, braving open seas, near
starvation, deadening frost bite and mountain climbing
without supplies - but Shackleton makes good on his
word and doesn't lose a single man.

A straightforward telling of the facts behind
Shackleton's ordeal would seem enough to round out this
boyishly exciting, Jack Londonesque tale. But the
storytellers here never quite get their adventure yarn
rolling. Standard documentary voice over is applied,
along with historically accurate recreations of 28 men
paddling in a boat, and awkwardly placed comparisons
between past and present expeditions - the movie has a
cobbled-together feel and momentum is choppy. Not to
worry though, the film is very much like Shackleton's
expedition - just when things look grim there always
appears on the horizon a saving grace.

Big Movies have long delivered massive, striking images
of the far flung and exotic. But more than a few of the
scenes in Shackleton seem filmed on a planet somewhere
in the Salvador Dali solar system. Massive chunks of
arching, wind sculpted ice strike as living ocean
nomads. The roiling waters of the Weddell Sea are cold
to look at. The white and translucent blue cliffs at
the edge of the Antarctic pack ice convey a sense of
terrible beauty.

The artful inclusion of Frank Hurley's motion picture
footage and his haunting, pre-Ansel Adams still
photography charge the film with a lingering beauty and
storytelling of their own. Shackleton's Antarctic
Adventure provides the best place outside of a museum
to admire Hurley's work (or the best place IN a museum,
if that's where your local IMAX screen is). One leaves
the theater wondering what Hurley might have thought of
Director of Photography Reed Smoot's (as well as Ron
Goodman's) IMAX camerawork.

Forgive the storytelling and ignore the overblown,
melodramatic score that accompanies these images of
Antarctica. The simple pleasures provided by the past
and present natural cinematography combined with an
incredible, true adventure tale are more than satisfying.
Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: Feb 2001


South Georgia: 53° 50' to 55° 00'S, 35° 50' to 38° 67'W

* One main island, several small ones, many islets
and rocks; outlying Clerke Rocks 74 km SE; mainly of
sedimentary origin; in the Southern Ocean. *

3755 km.
* Highest elevation: 2934 m (Mount Paget).

* 57 % glaciated.

* Sighted 1675, first landing
1775, sealers arrived 1786.

* Permanent occupation
(whaling and scientific stations, and a garrison) from
1904 (previously sealers and scientific personnel
wintered). Whaling and sealing stations operated

* British territory, part of South Georgia
and South Sandwich Islands; also claimed by Argentina,
part of the 'Islas del Atlantico Sur'. The South
Georgia Islands lie approximately 350 km south of the
Antarctic convergence and were discovered by Captain
Cook in 1775. They served as a base for British and
American sealers and whalers from 1786 until 1965.
Human occupation has continued up to the present for
scientific and weather observations. The central spine
of South Georgia forms a long mountain range with a
maximum elevation of 2950m. Much of the coast is
skirted by high, steep sea cliffs and numerous small
rocky islands. The north side of South Georgia is
punctuated with fjords, bays and glacial valleys.
Glaciers are present along with many ponds and abundant
swift cascading streams. The summer snow line ranges
between 450 and 600m along the warmer north slope but
is much lower elsewhere. South Georgia's geology
consists of folded metamorphosed slates, silts and
graywackes with occasional thin limestones. A few
igneous intrusions occur on the south and southeast
coasts. The Clerke Rocks, a group of approximately 15
islets 75 km southeast of Cooper Island, are composed
of granites. The climate is cloudy, cold and windy with
little variation throught the year. August, the coldest
month, has a mean temperature of -2 deg C, while
February, the warmest month, has a mean temperature of
6°C. Temperatures seldom reach above 9.5 deg C or below
-15 deg C. Precipitation also shows little seasonal
variation, but is somewhat higher in winter. On
average, South Georgia receives about 1500 mm annually
as summer rains and winter snows. Permafrost is present
but only proximal to glaciers and at high elevations.
Prevailing winds are from the northwest and southwest
with an average velocity of 16 km/h. Warm, moist
northwest winds moving over cold ocean water bring low
clouds and fog while southwest winds are often
accompanied by cold weather and severe storms.

Our fleet of specially built yachts can take you on expedituons to South Georgia

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