Prion Island and Stromness Harbour

Feb 28, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


Fresh snow blanketed the shores and peaks of South Georgia during the night, providing a colourful canvas of white, brown, green, and ocean blue for our morning outing. Prion Island was the chosen destination, a small island within the Bay of Isles in the northeast coast of South Georgia. We are here to see the wandering albatross. These are ocean dwellers with the largest wingspan of any other living bird, and second only to the long-extinct Palagornis Sandersi, with a wingspan of 24 feet! We have watched them following our route to and back from Antarctica, and today we have an opportunity to see them up close. And we are not disappointed! Our expectations grew as we climbed the boardwalk onto the top of the island, where we found twelve nests at close view. The wandering albatrosses were sitting on pedestal-like nests, caring for their young and rearranging their homes. But, when the wind picked up the albatrosses became very active, taking off like paragliders and extending their majestic wings.

Stromness, a former whaling station, was our afternoon stop. The rusty metal equipment and buildings from a gone by era provided a contrast with the hype of activity at the beach. Fur seal pups greeted us on the shore and followed our movements carefully, until we became old news and they went back to their playful antics. Amidst the dozens of young seals there were king penguins walking by, looking almost indignant at the raucous seals. A leucistic seal pup stood out from the crowd attracting our attention with its blonde pigmented fur.

Stromness is well known by those with an interest in Southern Ocean history, as it is the site where Ernest Shackleton, Frank Worsley, and Tom Cream arrived in May 1916, looking for the help of whalers to rescue the marooned party of the Endurance Expedition. In memory of this adventurous saga, we walked along the riverside towards the waterfall that marked the descent of the intrepid party that became the first to do a crossing of South Georgia. As we walked and reminisced on the ordeal of these men, we admired the beautiful and stark environment around us. South Georgia is a jewel in this part of the world, and not a one of us are likely to leave here unsmitten.

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About the Author

Conor Ryan

Naturalist

Hailing from Cobh in the south of Ireland, Conor Ryan grew up on the shores of Cork Harbour where his fascination with the sea led him to study zoology at University College Cork. He continued his studies in marine biology in Galway, where he completed his Ph.D. thesis on the diet and population structure of baleen whales in the Celtic Sea using stable isotope analysis. His research also brought him to Cape Verde in search of the breeding grounds of humpback whales that frequent the coasts of Ireland. However these whales have not yet given up their secret!

About the Videographer

Mark Coger

Video Chronicler

Growing up in a military family, Mark Coger has been traveling most of his life.  While living in Japan, he developed his passion for videography.  He began his venture in the field of video production by filming numerous events for a local high school and the military community before moving to Southern California, where he obtained his degree in filmmaking at California State University Northridge.  From there, he went on to produce and direct his first major short film, An American Journalist which was screened at the Method Film Festival.

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