Coming from the Falklands Islands, the first sight of South Georgia is the Shag Rocks, sticking out of the ocean, in the middle of nowhere. As South Georgia, they are part of the Scotia Ridge. Mostly submerged in the ocean, it connects Patagonia with the Antarctic Peninsula.
It took us 2 days to cross the Antarctic convergence. When South Georgia itself appears on the horizon, it looks like someone has cut off the glacier-blanketed summits of the Himalayas, and tossed them into the South Atlantic. Many of them are more than 2,000 meters high.
Being officially in the antarctic, the climate has changed totally and utterly. Desolated South Georgia reminded me of a with steroids injected version of Svalbard (Spitsbergen), sprinkled with penguins, aggressive fur seals, and enormous elephant seals. South Georgia might be the most stunning, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, surreal place I have ever visited.
Our first landing was at Fortuna Bay. Together with fellow Arctic Nature Guide, Stian, I guided 23 guests on a hike from Fortuna Bay to Strømnes, walking “in the footsteps” of explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874 – 1922).
During the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Shackleton and his men tried to cross the Antarctic continent. However, their ship Endurance got stuck in the sea ice before reaching the continent, drifted northward, and was eventually crushed and sunk. After months on the drifting ice, Shackleton managed to reach Elephant Island. From here, Shackleton and 5 others left the rest behind to row 1,300 kilometers to South Georgia.
Miraculously, they reached the southern shores of South Georgia. To get to Strømness, a (now abandoned) Norwegian whaler station on the northern shore, and organize help, Shackleton had to hike 40 km from King Haakon’s Bay, across the Allardyce Range. Shackleton succeeded, and in doing so, he and his men became legends.
We hiked the very last stretch of Shackleton’s crossing of South Georgia, from Fortuna Bay to Strømness.
We also landed at the former Norwegian whaling station of Grytviken, beautifully located in King Edward Cove. Here, Sir Ernest Shackleton found his last resting place.
Around South Georgia, 175,000 whales were slaughtered in the 1900s, in just 60 years. There is no whaling here anymore, but the whales remain absent…