We cruised out of Elsehul and made our way to Right Whale Bay in about 2 hours time. I alternated between the warmth of the bridge to the bench on the chilly aft deck, enjoying South Georgia’s rugged coastline views for the entire transit. My shipmates used the time to pack their bags and get their gear ready for the next landing. I knew I should have been following their example but I just couldn't take my eyes off this stunning island.
The Hans Hansson cruised into a wintry Right Whale Bay and the skipper announced we would have time to explore today - weather permitting. Rushing back to my cabin, I clumsily packed my camera gear into my dry sack and donned my extra layers of waterproof clothing in preparation of landing.
The zodiac would ferry us to and from the shore as we liked but there was always a set rendez-vous time. If we ever wished to return the the boat before the set time, we could just stand at the landing site and signal for a zodiac to retrieve us.
With each landing, the first zodiac to reach shore would bring a depot of a few colorful waterproof duffle bags stocked with emergency provisions. In the event of foul weather - or for any reason the group on land might need to hunker down and shelter for an extended amount of time unable to return to the boat, all could do so safely. This colorful pile marked the landing site and was handy for another reason, too. Once ashore, we stowed our life vests and dry sacks inside these bags, ready for the return zodiac ride to the boat at the end of the day.
Many of my shipmates had visited this site before and mentioned a beautiful waterfall - other than this, I didn’t know what to expect from Right Whale Bay because not much is written about this site.
It was all new to me so when I decided to walk down the black sand beach I was thrilled to be greeted by more of South Georgia's celebrity residents: Fur seals, Southern elephant seals, South Georgia Pintail, King penguins, etc! All here in such a beautiful, wintry landscape.
Took my time and walked down the beach. I eventually found the famous waterfall from the photo - but it was frozen solid. Today it looked more like an ice sculpture of a waterfall.
I hiked down to an area where the scientists in our party were about to install a camera on a hill. The snowy conditions made it difficult to see very far but provided an amazing atmosphere. Don't you think?
I was amazed to see so many King penguins - and to see how well they blended into the landscape!
My seasoned shipmates said this isn't a big colony. Wait until you see the colonies at Salisbury Plain or St. Andrew's Bay! (Spoiler Alert: They were right!)
My gear had become soaked, my camera’s batteries were dead (in my haste I did not pack extras) and it was difficult to see through my fogged up glasses - no matter how many times I cleared them. In retrospect, I could have been miserable but it was all too thrilling for me to even consider being anything but awestruck.
As it approached the designated rendez-vous time, I headed back down the black sand beach to the landing site where I donned my life vest and packed my dry sac for the wet zodiac ride to the Hans Hansson. where a hot shower and a warm meal awaited. At dinner we discussed the plan for the next day. We would stay here for the night and aim to be on the beach for sunrise.
(To Be Continued)