Prion Island and Fortuna Bay

Mar 01, 2020 - National Geographic Explorer

Our last day in South Georgia, the “Serengeti of the Southern Ocean,” was an archetype of expedition. We began the day with a cloudy and atmospheric Zodiac landing at Prion Island, one of the Bird Islands on the northern side of South Georgia. The clouds steadily cleared and let in some sun for the second half of the landing, when guests went ashore at the legendary stronghold of the wandering albatross and the South Georgia pipit. Two titans of the avian family, these birds could not be more different, but both were conserved on Prion Island during the height of invasive species introduction.

For the afternoon we visited Fortuna Bay, where Shackleton stumbled to the shore in a miscalculation, right before walking the last few miles to the Stromness whaling station. We were interrupted on our transit by two Southern right whales—gorgeous and rare marine mammals. We mingled with them for a few minutes and took many photos.

The weather changed its tune by the time we arrived at Fortuna and began to give us a real Southern Ocean soaking. Wind and rain made sure we were all evenly drenched, but trudge on we did. The king penguins and fur seals didn’t seem to mind, so we followed their lead; besides, we knew we’d be dry and warm inside the ship soon.

After a great dinner, a special show from the ship’s band, and a rendezvous with National Geographic Orion, we all collapsed into bed. What an amazing place this is, and what a time we’ve had!

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About the Author

James Hyde

Undersea Specialist

James is a home-grown, free-range Pacific Northwest outdoorsmen. Born in Seattle and reared nearby on Vashon Island, he grew up in and surrounded by the Salish Sea. James has saltwater in his veins, but would be quick to point out we all do, echoing Carl Safina " We are, in a sense, soft vessels of seawater." Born with the travel bug, James was fortunate enough to spend time on four continents before graduating college. During his studies at Western Washington University's Huxley College of the Environment, James went to Australia and visited the Great Barrier Reef. He was never the same. A lifetime of playing in the productive, but opaque green water of the Northwest had offered him little firsthand experience of the creatures below its depths, but with a clear view of the colorful dramas playing out across the bottom of the tropical Pacific, he was hooked. Scuba diving and underwater ecology were solidified as his passion and after college, it took him to a dive shop in Seattle fixing gear, tidepooling with local middle school students, and generally making a spectacle of himself in the surf.

About the Videographer

Ashley Karitis

Video Chronicler

Ashley was raised in Central Oregon where she spent her childhood ski racing, riding horses, playing classical piano, and working summer jobs on a dude ranch. She then attended the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles earning degrees in cinema-television, history, and international relations. Although immersed in the studies of narrative filmmaking, she gravitated toward the process, deeper on-camera conversations, and scientific and human themes explored in documentary production.

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