Yesterday morning Jason, and other guests & guides, completed the last 3 miles of the arduous 30 mile hike that Shackleton and 2 of men had to make after landing in Fortuna Bay. The details of the trek and survival story are in a previous blog posting. They ended in Stromness, a now abandoned whaling station. I decided against the hike as I thought my bruised backside would not do so well.
Yesterday afternoon, we took the zodiacs from the boat to land at Grytviken, the site of Captain Larson’s whaling station. The station is of course abandoned but a large amount of buildings, machinery and vats that used to hold whale oil, remain on the site. There is also a museum & gift shop, British Antarctic Survey research station, and the grave of Ernest Shackelton who had died from a heart attack. Grytviken has up to 20 staff in the summer, with the museum staff, and it drops to about 8 people in the winter, primarily scientists. Some of the scientists came on board to present on their work and life in Grytviken. One of the most important things highlighted is the importance of Krill, a small shrimp like animal, that basically support the entire animal web in the Antarctic area. Several animals such as penguins, seals, whales etc depend directly on eating the krill. Other whales and leopard seals depend on eating animals that eat the krill.
I encourage those who eat fish to ensure they are eating fish caught in sustainable manners. For instance, in South Georgia there are several things in place to reduce the thousands of Albatross Birds that used to be drowned in the area due to long line fishing (as they dove to catch the bait and were pulled to their deaths). The initiatives include faster sinking hooks, bird deterrent devices, night fishing etc. You can go to www.blueocean.org to view which fish species are less likely to be overfished, poorly managed, and have a lower by catch (the animals that are killed ‘by accident’ when fishing), less pollution etc. You can also purchase fish that have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
It is imperative that we all realize the impact of pollution, discarded plastic, fishing etc has on our delicate ecosystem. Things that happen down here impact us on the other hemisphere and vice versa. Many of the whale species are still in low numbers from being hunted to the brink of extinction. There is a swirling plastic mass (the size of Texas!!), called The Plastic Vortex or Garbage Patch, in the ocean of all of the bags and plastic refuse that have collected here from dumps etc. Sea turtles are particularly vulnerable as they view the plastic bags as jelly fish and then eat them and die. One small thing that anyone can do is to use reusable cloth bags, & generally reduce, re-use and recycle. You can also save money and reduce pollution by converting to CFL bulbs which use far less energy.
"Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. We did not weave the web of life, we are merely strands in it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves." — Chief Seattle