Wandering Cort #10 - Fortuna Bay on South Georgia Island

Spent the night anchored in the calm Fortuna Bay gently rocking.  Slept great.  My Scop patch fell off yesterday and I have not put another one on yet.  My skin is a little tender where the patch was located.  The next time I put on a patch, I will place it behind my other ear.

Woke up to fog with a slight breeze and rain mixed with snow.  Our first shore excursion for the day is planned for an 8:30 AM landing at Whale Cove in Fortuna Bay.  I am going to leave my expensive Nikon DSLR on board and just take the waterproof Olympus on shore.

What a fantastic shore excursion.  It was so liberating not worrying about getting my camera wet or taking National Geographic photos.  I just relaxed and enjoyed the incredible scenery and amazing wildlife.

We are supposed to keep 15 feet from the Penguins to not disturb them or alter their behavior and 30 feet from the Fur Seals to avoid being bitten.  A bite from a Fur Seal requires a strong dose of antibiotics to ward off infection from their filthy mouths and immediate evacuation.  The Penguins are inquisitive and kept walking toward us.  The male Fur Seals stake out territories 15 to 50 feet apart across the entire beach.  With Fur Seals scattered across the beach and scattered in the Tussock Grass along with curious penguins approaching from every direction, so it was difficult to zigzag through the wildlife maintaining the proper distance.

Only male Fur Seals were on the beach.  The males stand at attention head held high watching for intruders on their territory.  The females are still out feeding in the ocean.  It would be fun to see how this welcoming committee of testosterone laden males reacts when the females start arriving.  Antarctic tours that occur later in the season avoid landing on beaches full of male and female fur seals.  The males are too aggressive and will attack tourists.

I watched one Fur Seal attempt to move in on another Fur Seals territory.  A fight ensued.  They bit each other's necks ferociously.  Fur was flying.  Good thing the fur is thick on their necks.  The fight only lasted a few seconds.  The intruder backed off a few feet.  I suspect he would soon try again.

The Zodiac landed on the beach near a bull Elephant Seal  and his harem.  He looked very successful with half a dozen females and 3 weaners.  I watched wieners nursing.  What a happy family.  Lurking just off shore was another bull.  Only his head was above water.  It looked like a periscope and he was staring at the harem.  Seemed like he was waiting for his chance to take over the harem.  The lurking bull stayed in the same place the entire 2 and ½ hours that I was on shore.

Some of the bull Elephant Seals are badly beaten up from their fights for territory.  The typical beach master only lasts a year servicing his harem and fighting off the intruders.  After one season he is too warn out to continue and is dethroned to celibacy.

King Penguins are a noisy bunch.   Adults seemed to randomly stick their beaks in the air to let out a bugling sound.  The crèches of young fluffy brown penguins chirped constantly.  The crèches on Fortuna are much larger than I have seen at other sites.  There were groups of over 100 young penguins.

I walked about half a mile along the beach to where I could see the crèches of King Penguin juveniles.  Just beyond the penguins was a heard of Reindeer calmly grazing.  They were introduced by whalers over a hundred years ago to provide a source of meat.  There is a debate going on about removing the reindeer because they are an invasive species that could be affecting native species.

Rained and snowed the entire time that we were on shore.  I stayed warm and dry except my hands.  My gloves got soaked thru my waterproof over mittens that I have owned for over 30 years.  I guess they are not waterproof any more.  The over mittens were wind proof, so my hands did not get cold despite being wet.  The correct gloves for these conditions are either my neoprene gloves that I use for cold weather rafting or rubber gloves.  Some of the guide staff have rubber gloves with long sleeves.  You can probably buy them at Big R.  One guide had a pair of insulated rubber gloves.  

My bladder alarm clock went off on schedule about 2 hours after landing on shore.  I was careful this morning to only drink a small amount of liquids and no caffeinated tea.  I guess I need to drink nothing before going on shore and rehydrate in the evening.  But that is cocktail time.

Polar Cruises, Travel Agencies & Bureaus, Bend, OR