Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gold Harbor & Ocean Harbor

I have been taking advil and using an ice pack so my backside is starting to feel better. It is the worse and largest bruise I have ever had. Quite the souvenir! I stayed in for the morning as I wanted to rest. Jason went out for the 5am zodiac trip to land in Gold Harbor. He said it was similar to yesterday with King Penguins, elephant seals, fur seals, skua birds and so on. One of the fur seals got annoyed and ran up and bit through the protective pants of one of the naturalists. He was fine though and the seal did not reach skin.

This afternoon I felt better to I brave another zodiac trip into Ocean Harbor. It is an abandoned whaling station and the wreck of the Bayard, an iron hulled sailing boat, has remained since 1911. We went ashore and took a mapped out route to avoid the cantankerous fur seals. The harbor has a small flat area of land and then it is surrounded by mountains on one side and a steep moss and grass covered hill on the other. As we were enjoying the view a herd of reindeer stampeded through. They are not native to the area and were introduced in 1911 for sport and for meat. It is quite the sight to see reindeer gallop through a gathering of fur seals! 

The area had quite a few fur seals and elephant seals. I like the elephant seals the best. They look like huge blubber slugs and are believed to be the deepest diving animals. It is hard to believe as they move slowly on land. They have a better disposition than the cranky fur seals. They also making this really loud burping sound which is apparently their bark. But I tell you it sounds like a huge beer belch fest. I swear they let out huge farts too but apparently that is just their snorting. They are so offensive that they are cute. The fur seal pups are really cute as well. Fur seals were thought to be extinct, due to hunting, but started reappearing in the 1950’s. by 1825 about 1.2 million fur seals had been killed for pelts.

The whaling station has been torn down with a few remnants remaining including a brick shed and some pieces of metal machines. There are quite a few whale bones strewn about. Whales were hunted for their blubber (oil for things like margarine, lanterns etc), meat, and so on. It was an somber sight to see the bleached whale bones next to the graves of whalers who had died. Whales are now protected in the South Georgian waters but are hunted in other areas on a small scale. Back in the day, 175,250 whales were killed and processed in the whaling stations of South Georgia.

I thought I’d also mention that the tabular ice bergs (or table top icebergs as they are also known), that posted photos of, are around 100-150 feet tall (above the water!). The portion below the water is another 700-800 feet! These icebergs are breath taking and hard to capture in the photos as there is little to offer scale.

No comments: