St Andrews Bay & Ocean Harbour

Mar 16, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


After an early breakfast, we began our landing at St Andrews Bay to visit the largest king penguin colony—home to approximately 150,000 pairs—on South Georgia Island. For some reason, king penguins prefer high-energy beaches. That is, beaches with remarkably strong surf. Today we were amazed. We just drove straight in, like we were parking a car at a convenience store! We typically made stern-first landings, with four to six people to catch and hold the boat

As usual, there were a number of hikes offered: a hike to the colony, a photo hike to the colony, a long hike via a glacier face then to the colony, etc. Due to the king penguins’ unique breeding cycle, 14 months from courtship to fledging, it was possible to see bits of the entire cycle in one visit: courtship, eggs, chicks, and molting.

After lunch we found ourselves at Ocean Harbour. In the early part of the 20th century, there was a whaling station here. Now there are just bits and pieces left—an old steam locomotive and the wreck of the Bayard. We had the choice of a long hike up to top of a high ridge; an intermediate hike through the near the old whaling station, a waterfall, graves, and the wreck; a photo hike; or simply wandering on our own.

It was a beautiful afternoon, warm and sunny. On the medium hike, we picked our way around mostly very young fur seal pups and the occasional mom as we headed to the waterfall, the perfect place to sit or lie on the grass. It was a bit difficult to get everyone up and moving again, but there were elephant seals to be gawked at and an intriguing wreck to be admired and photographed. Just another day on beautiful South Georgia Island.

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About the Author

Dennis Cornejo

Naturalist

Dennis began scuba diving during the mid-1970s as part of a research project. At the time he was a research associate at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona, studying the population of winter hibernating sea turtles.  What began as a scientific study soon became a conservation project that expanded to three species of sea turtles along the entire Pacific coast of Mexico.  This project received major funding from the World Wildlife Fund and was eventually taken over directly by that agency with Kim Clifton and Dennis Cornejo as co-principal investigators.

About the Videographer

Eric Wehrmeister

Video Chronicler

Eric began his life on the far western edge of Chicago, where the concrete meets the cornfields.  His inspiration has always drawn from the expansive beauty of the natural world, as well as the endless forms that populate it.

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