From the National Geographic Explorer in South Georgia

Nov 15, 2010 - National Geographic Explorer

Porpoising king penguin at Salisbury Plain
Adult bull Antarctic fur seal shaking off water

Bay of Isles, South Georgia

Today was a 40GB kind of day, and to the photographers out there among you, that pretty well tells you the day was an imaging dream. We got off to an absolutely stunning sunrise as the National Geographic Explorer nosed into the Bay of Isles on South Georgia. The sun was masked behind clouds as it sent shafts of God’s Light into the azure morning sky. My camera clicked and whirred and the first 5GB were over just that fast. Barely time for a quick breakfast and into the Zodiacs for our morning landing at Salisbury Plain.

With an offshore wind to keep the Zodiacs just off the beach we cruised for elephant seals, Antarctic fur seals, and king penguins along the shoreline. King penguins continually came and went from the shoreline to the sea in their search for a meal, porpoising as they went. The sun finally broke through the clouds and we all were able to get ashore into the penguin colony itself. A virtual sea of penguins greeted us, adults and Okum boys in wave after shimmering wave. The sight of the second largest king penguin colony on South Georgia is hard to describe to those who have not witnessed it for themselves. The sounds and smells are just as overwhelming to the uninitiated. To claim sensory overload would be a fair statement, and another 20GB of memory left my camera.

Conditions were absolutely perfect and so we ran late into lunch. Just enough time to gobble a snack, download my camera’s memory cards, and change out batteries as the ship repositioned to Prion Island. With fresh batteries and a full tummy off we zoomed to visit the nesting area of the wandering albatross on this pristine, rat-free island. To have an opportunity to see and photograph the bird with largest wingspan of any on the planet came with a price of admission: we had to run the gauntlet of male Antarctic fur seals who had already claimed the beach at our landing site as their own. I have never seen some of the staff move so quickly as when they were trying to elude bull fur seals intent on reclaiming beach property. False charges, sparring amongst themselves, bulls chasing smaller bulls right back into the ocean. What a sight! And so another 15GB of memory flew from the camera. Late to dinner, late to bed tonight, but the memories (and photographs) from today will last long into the future!

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About the Author

Michael Nolan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Michael Nolan was born in Bitburg, Germany to an Air Force family stationed there. His first experience of the ocean came at age 12, when he learned to snorkel in the Italian Mediterranean. At age 17 he moved to Tucson, Arizona and became a PADI SCUBA instructor, before starting a SCUBA diving business that specialized in diving trips to the Sea of Cortez.

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