Drygalski Fjord and Cooper Bay

Feb 27, 2018 - National Geographic Orion


The morning was unusually calm and clear by the standards of an approach to South Georgia. Cape Disappointment loomed in the distance, and the island’s unmistakably jagged profile with its thick scattering of glaciers dominated our view to port.

Rounding the southern point of the island, we pointed the ship towards Drygalski Fjord and edged into Larsen Harbour, near the fjord entrance. Conditions being as they were in such a beautiful setting, we took the opportunity to partake in the polar plunge. Guests, crew and staff, under the lead of the Captain, leapt from the marina deck of the ship into the cold of the sea. Though it takes a certain level of willpower to commit to the jump, it is something that is in equal parts unforgettable and never regrettable.

From here we crept further into the shelter of the harbour as winds were picking up. The steep sides of this ice-carved inlet shielded us from the wind enough to launch our kayak fleet and allow people to enjoy the depth of the harbour, with the remnants of a glacier at the very end, without the sound of engines.

Once everyone was back on board, we took advantage of the ship’s size and manoeuvrability to make our way deeper in to Drygalski Fjord. This bleak, steep walled channel is unique in South Georgia, looking more like a mix between the Antarctic continent and coastal Norway than anywhere nearby. At the end, we stop in front of the mighty Risting Glacier, the face of which is dense with feeding seabirds such as Wilson’s Storm Petrels and Cape Petrels. After stopping to take in this sight, we then turn and make our way back down through the fjord to the open ocean. Our day, though already eventful, is still not over. We make our way to Cooper Bay, a harbour with a limited landing site that is no less rich in life. Here, just before sunset, we see king penguins, Gentoo penguins, fur seals, and elephant seals, while from the Zodiacs we see macaroni penguins resting on the rocks, while light-mantled albatross soar past overhead.

All this beauty is still only the beginning, a taste of what is yet to come.

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About the Author

Peter Wilson

Naturalist

Peter comes from the town of Cobh, County Cork, on the south coast of Ireland. He is both a working archaeologist and a naturalist.  Growing up and living next to the sea, he developed a fascination with whales and dolphins, along with birds and the broader natural world. Ever varied in his interests, he studied English at University College Cork and went on to complete a master’s degree in Old English. 

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