Right Whale Bay & Elsehul

Mar 03, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

Right Whale Bay was named in 1922 after the whale species that got its name from the whalers who considered it the “right whale to kill.” Right Whale Bay is only 1.5 miles wide and lies between Craigie and Nameless points. It is yet another stunning place in South Georgia: home to a king penguin colony, fur seals, elephant seals, and a waterfall that adds to the fantastic scenery.

When we arrived at the bay this morning however, we encountered over-40-knot winds and 60-knot gusts which made a landing impossible until conditions improved. Our patience paid off. We were able to go ashore later in the morning and enjoyed a walk to a king penguin colony and the waterfall.

We were lucky again in the afternoon as the weather conditions allowed for a hike and Zodiac cruising at Elsehul. This bay was named after a sealing captain who probably came to Elsehul in the 1780s. The bay offers a remarkable abundance of wildlife: several species of albatrosses, usually three species of penguins (although we not only enjoyed the presence of king, gentoo, and macaroni penguins, but also two chinstrap individuals that day), fur and elephant seals, and even a leopard seal, sleeping on the beach and thankfully ignoring our Zodiacs.

We were also met archaeologists who were excavating the remains of the former sealing station to retrieve artifacts. Their research is part of a three-year project and is funded by the South Georgia Heritage Trust.

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About the Author

Hannah Kriesell


Having a great interest in science and love for nature, Hannah started travelling at an early age and engaged in work supporting local science projects and nature conservation efforts, such as being a ranger in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park, a volunteer in a wildlife rescue station in Ecuador, and monitoring the desert elephant population in Namibia. Her experiences during those trips led her to do a bachelor’s degree in biology in Germany and a master’s degree in international nature conservation in New Zealand. She studied insect species in Malaysia and New Zealand, whales and dolphins in Namibia and Australia, and endangered birds in Tahiti. Driven by her curiosity and her desire to explore, she did her Ph.D. on king penguins. Spending a total of 8 months amongst thousands of king penguins on Possession Island, Crozet Archipelago, she studied the mate choice behavior and communication in this fascinating seabird while also learning about the other 26 bird species inhabiting this beautiful and remote island. Together with renowned experts, she published an assessment of the biodiversity conservation efforts in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and actions that can be taken to preserve those pristine environments.

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