Godthul & Hercules Bay, South Georgia

Feb 27, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


Early morning and we are anchored in the calm shelter of Godthul, the site of a former whaling operation. Not a land-based whaling station, rather a shore-supported whaling venture. Whale-hunting ships would haul their “take” into the bay. The whales would be flensed next to the ship and the blubber rendered and stored onshore. Today the area has many large, rusty metal sheds, rusty metal barrels, and the remains of rotted wooden barrels. And yes, many bones of whales.

Long hikes were offered as well as Zodiac cruising along the scenic shores. The hikers saw fur and elephant seals along the cobbled beach. They took a steep ascent through large tussock grass, the local 4- to 6-foot-high tufted grass, until reaching the short tundra vegetation where there were villages of gentoo penguins and great views. On the water, guest also saw fur and elephant seals, as well as waterfalls and a couple of icebergs. A single, molting Magellanic penguin was spotted and later, was killed and eaten by a giant petrel. And yes, that is the way nature is.

After lunch, we anchored in another scenic bay. Hercules Bay is a protected body of water flanked by cliffs, mountains, and glacial cirques. Both Godthul and Hercules Bay are on the north-northeast side—the wet side—of South Georgia Island. We Zodiac cruised since there was really no place to land. 

There are a few special things here at Hercules Bay. For example, there is the magic waterfall—hundreds of feet high, maybe 20 feet wide, as the water crashes down on the rocky beach. But that is it. No stream, no pond—the water just disappears. The cliffs and mountains look like they are made from petrified taffy, multiple layers that are twisting and rolling. We spotted Magellanic penguins, hundreds of penguins with bright yellow eyebrows, some molting and many others moving from the steep, rocky shore into and out of the water. They made me cringe when they face-planted after leaping out of the sea on to the rocks. All in all, quite the enjoyable day.

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About the Author

Dennis Cornejo

Naturalist

Dennis has spent more than half of his life working with Lindblad Expeditions. He first studied biology in the Sonoran Desert. It was his work with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum that brought him into contact with Sven Lindblad. Dennis was working with sea turtles in Mexico, desert tadpoles in southern Arizona and evaluating various legume trees for arid lands agriculture throughout the Sonoran Desert. Sven asked him if he would be interested in working on a ship as a naturalist in Baja California… a simple ‘yes’ turned out to be perhaps the most important decision he ever made!

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