Gold Harbour and Drygalski Fjord

Dec 01, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


It was an early rise, and a buzz of excitement rang around the ship as cups of coffee and pastries were grabbed and dragged outside to watch the morning haze light up a sea of elephant seals and king penguins strewn across Gold Harbour.

It wasn’t long before Zodiacs were zipping back and forth across the bay and people were brought face to face with the incredible noises, smells, activity and chaos that encapsulates life on South Georgia. The southern elephant seal weaners were mostly around a month or so old and curious to investigate the newcomers to the beach. They were interspersed with large bull males, mostly lying together in piles, but occasionally at noisy odds with one another.

The king penguins, numbering 25,000 breeding pairs, were a pleasure to watch. Their subtle behaviours and interactions always fascinating to witness. Bills high in the air, the adults postured and attempted to pair up with the most suitable mate. Meanwhile, huge, fluffy brown chicks chased feathers and friends around the beach, wandering far from where their stricken parents had left them.

Breakfast offered a brief pause, and then back to the beach. Guests were almost as wide-eyed as the elephant seal weaners.

After lunch we headed back out to sea to investigate the rich waters around South Georgia, and to some great success! We were met by feeding humpback whales and huge artistically sculpted icebergs, which we skirted in amoungst, watching birds jump up from below the huge heavy heads of surfacing whales.

After our encounter we headed down Drygalski Fjord, a 14-kilometer fjord system ending in a glacier named Risting Glacier after a well renowned whaling historian. With beautiful sunshine overhead, incredible ice everywhere and a surprise visit from a Weddell seal, this was the perfect end to the perfect time in South Georiga – next stop, Antarctica!

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About the Author

Ella Potts

Naturalist

Ella’s passion has always been in marine conservation, with a childhood spent swimming, kayaking or boating in the chilly waters of the UK, or surveying the marine life of those waters from windswept headlands. She has numerous, distinct early memories of shivering adults, wrapped up in jumpers and cagoules, looking down at her with slight horror through sheets of rain and commenting on her short sleeves. A phenomena that persists to this day.  She graduated with a Masters degree in Marine Biology: Conservation and Resource Management from Swansea University, setting her up for a career protecting those marine ecosystems that she so loves. 

Ella has worked for several British whale conservancy charities, including ORCA and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) and is a British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) marine mammal medic. She has a real passion for lecturing, and during her time in these different organizations has presented to vastly ranging audiences; from groups of young children right up to filled auditoriums at the headquarters of HWDT partner, WWF. 

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