Drygalski Fjord and North Coast

Mar 15, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

Soon after breakfast, on this bright, sunny day, we pulled out of the swell that was causing the National Geographic Explorer to roll a little and we entered the mouth of Drygalski Fjord on the far southeastern end of South Georgia. The fjord runs west northwest for about two miles and is bordered by spectacular steep-sided cliffs and tumbling glaciers. Looking up one glacial valley to the north, one could see the high peak of Mount Carse towering over us.

We continued to the end of the fjord where the Riesling Glacier flowed from the valley above down into the waters of the fjord. Cape petrels were there in numbers, as were flocks of Wilson’s storm petrels, dancing on the water. There was a large amount of brash ice in the water in front of the glacier and we were soon to see why, as large seracs calved off from the ice front at regular intervals. We stared in awe at one point when two thirds of the whole ice front collapsed, crashing into the fjord in front of us. Although the Zodiacs were at a safe distance and could ride the ensuing wave easily, we were all very pleased not to have been any closer.

As always in South Georgia, we were reluctant to leave the venue and head for another, but there is always so much more to experience. We left the fjord at lunchtime and headed for Cooper Bay, but as we passed by we could see that the northerly swell would not allow a landing there and it was decided to carry on northwards towards Jason Harbour and return to this area when the swell has hopefully dissipated.

On the way we passed along the northern coast and could see the impressive mountains of South Georgia’s interior, rising up to the highest peak of Mount Paget at over 8,000 feet. And after a long vigil watching penguins and fur seals capering in the rolling ocean, we were rewarded with a close-up view of a southern right whale. That caused much excitement throughout the ship, with many people comparing their best fluke shots with each other.

The afternoon was rounded off with Recap in the lounge and another superb meal.

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About the Author

John Pailthorpe


John spent the early years of his life in London, before an inspirational teacher took him to the highlands of Scotland on a school adventure trip. From then on the natural world has been his passion. After teacher training in Bangor, North Wales, John began a thirty-year career in outdoor education centres and schools, teaching and leading children and adults in such pursuits as mountaineering, rock climbing, kayaking, and sailing throughout the U.K. and Europe.

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