Right Whale Bay & Elsehul, South Georgia

Nov 04, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

We arrived in Right Whale Bay with a splash. We saw a small but majestic king penguin colony and nearby, a skua. Ferocious fur seals covered the land and caused a ruckus among the penguins as we cautiously hiked by. Along the way, we saw the remnants of a blue whale, as well as an explosive harpoon used for whaling many years ago. On our hike back to the Zodiacs, many guests took photographs near the large whale vertebrae that sat among the elephant seals. 

We had a true taste of an expedition when we returned to the beach and found that our landing site was no longer navigable due to the enormous swell of the ocean. As true explorers, we marched over a snowy embankment to our new landing site, while fur seals watched from both sides. Luckily, National Geographic Explorer staff were on hand to keep the fur seals at bay.

After a delicious lunch of fish tacos and guacamole, we landed at picturesque Elsehul Bay. Guests chose to either take a Zodiac cruise or hike up the rim of the bay to get a closer look at the petrels and albatross nesting in the high grasses. From the Zodiacs, guests watched an abundance of birds—including grey-headed and light-mantled albatross—flying overhead. Nesting South Georgia shags and macaroni penguins could be seen along the cliffs. The trip was pleasantly interrupted by the arrival of a Viking vessel. The Vikings provided hot cocoa on the chilly ride. On the hike, guests got a bird’s-eye view of petrels, skuas, albatross, pipits, snowy sheathbills, and gentoo penguins. Although the climb was slick and rocky and took a considerable amount of effort for the climbers, it proved to be well worth it.

All in all, it was an amazing day. As we said goodbye to South Georgia, we were reminded of the amazing wildlife—both ferocious and furry—that we saw. In fact, the Grosvenor Teacher Fellows devised a scale to help us process the diverse, snuggleable (and not snuggleable) animals we encountered. When you think of a specific animal (i.e. baby king penguins, adult male elephant seals, etc.), you can use the scale to help you navigate the decision of how close you want to get to that particular animal (in an imaginary world, of course… we all know the naturalists highly discourage getting closer than 15 feet!). To help you, the teachers have provided several examples, below:


Christine: “There is no doubt that Oakum Boys (king penguin chicks) come in high on the snuggleablilty scale. I place them at a clear nine. I would say 10, due to their adorable faces, curious nature, and super-soft, teddy bear-like appearance. However, the smell and constant whistling might deter one from fully assimilating an Oakum Boy into their home.”

Jessi: “For me, the rockhopper penguin comes in at around a seven. Rockhoppers are the height of adorable, and I truly identify with their work ethic—especially when it comes to building nests. However, this scale measures snuggleablity, and the lack of soft fur could prove troublesome for long-term spooning.”

Paula: “The fur seals are for sure a low score! Besides their disgusting smell, they are very aggressive, and this behaviour caused guests to walk around in terror on a daily basis. Hiding in the tussock, we all felt like we were in the Twilight Zone, dodging these pesky critters. A fur seal is absolutely a one because even if a fur seal politely asked me, using words, to snuggle, I would resolutely slap it in its furry face.”

The beauty of the Snuggle Scale is that it is specific to each person using it. It can be used as a conversation starter when dinner discussion begins to lull and as an alternative to discussing Shackleton yet again. Enjoy!

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About the Author

Grosvenor Teacher Fellows Paula Huddy, Jessi Parra, and Christine McCartney

Grosvenor Teacher Fellows Paula Huddy, Jessi Parra, and Christine McCartney

About the Photographer

Jasper Doest

National Geographic Photographer

Dutch photographer Jasper Doest specializes in conservation issues and wildlife photography, emphasizing the beauty and fragility of our planet. After his studies as an ecology major specializing in Arctic ecosystems, Jasper decided to become a photographer in order to bridge the gap between the human and the natural world. As a Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, his photographs have received multiple awards and appeared in numerous publications, including National Geographic, GEO, and Smithsonian. Jasper's photographs of Japanese macaques, popularly known as "snow monkeys," received recognition in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and appeared in the October 2016 issue of National Geographic.

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