I had looked forward to the opportunity to trace part of Shackleton's hike across the mountains to the whaling station at Stromness. One of our expedition leaders, Trevor Potts, had recreated Sir Ernest Shackleton's epic journey from Elephant Island off the coast of Antarctica to Stromness and was to lead the hike. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, I was using borrowed boots for the "wet" landings and the boots didn't fit well enough for hiking. That difficulty could have been overcome, but I was also suffering from a cold and major sore throat. The two problems together convinced me that it would be neither wise nor respectful of the other hikers to make the attempt.
As we watched the intrepid few depart in their Zodiacs before breakfast, that decision seemed even better!
The hikers came onto this plain following Shackleton's route from Fortuna Bay over the low hills to the right of the picture. This flat plain was the home of a number of reindeer, which had been introduced to South Georgia by Norwegians during the whaling days. The reindeer prospered to the point of damaging native vegetation and disrupting nesting birds. Since our visit the government has eradicated them.
The snow and fog are a reminder that even though we are visiting in the tail-end of summer, we are in a sub-Antarctic location with winter approaching.
One sad sight was a male seal with a wounded flipper that prevented him from moving or swimming. He appeared to be slowly dying of starvation. I asked our guides if anything could be done, but they are prevented by the Antarctic Treaty from interfering with the wildlife – even for humane purposes.
Our postman collects stamps so we always post a card to ourselves to pass on to him.
Trevor Potts and others recreated the feat in a replica of the James Caird in 1994 (sailing from Elephant Island to South Georgia) and 2001 (crossing South Georgia on foot).
Sir Ernest was planning another Antarctic expedition in the early 1920s when he died of a heart attack. His wife directed that he be buried here in Grytviken.
Many of our ship's passengers came over early in the morning on Zodiacs along with Trevor Potts to offer the customary toast in Shackleton's memory. Not being an early riser, I didn't make it until the afternoon and, alas, had no suitable libation. The captain of our ship was also making a personal pilgrimage to the grave at about the same time.
The cemetery was surrounded by cranky fur seals. I was rather nervous at walking through them alone because their bite is said to be quite dangerous, but we were given strict instructions not to run and to make use of hiking sticks to fend off any threats. I had to stare down a couple, but I made it in and out OK.
The British administration patrols the local waters. There are a number of visitors that come to the island -- either in organized cruises like ours or in their own private yachts.
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