We had a second chance today to see the sunrise at Gold Harbour, and those who made the effort to be up and ready at 4 a.m. were rewarded with a truly magical experience. We landed our Zodiacs on the beach with just the faintest of light illuminating the elephant seals, giant petrels, king penguins, and, thankfully, just a couple of snoozing male Antarctic fur seals. We spread out along the beach, composing our photos of surfing rafts, of king penguins coming ashore or sparring male elephant seals. But the stars of the morning, for many of us, were the elephant seal weaners. We watched in delight as one of them blew a feather across the sand with its nasal exhalations. Blubber jiggling and the first rays of the sun glinting off its beautifully round, soulful eyes, the weaner galumphed in chase of this newfound plaything.
The sky burst into pinks and oranges, and it was amazing to see that even the male elephant seals, normally rather unattractive, looked stunning in the morning glow. There was an almost reverent silence among us as we worked the scene with our cameras and then simply drank in the magnificence of Gold Harbour.
We returned to National Geographic Explorer for breakfast and then many of us had the pleasure of exploring the lagoon at the base of Bertrab Glacier by Zodiac. This is a cruise that can be undertaken only in the right conditions, and we were fortunate to have them! Once past the breakers, we drifted amid brash ice from glacier calving and got a better picture of how the geography of Gold Harbour was created. The last Zodiac group even had the excitement of seeing a rather large piece of the glacier calving into the lagoon as they departed.
We ended our visit to South Georgia with a ship cruise into the impressive Drygalski Fjord at the southeast end of the island. Captain Oliver and the Bridge team did a remarkable job getting us very close to Risting Glacier at the end of the fjord, where we waited for and watched multiple glacier calvings. It was a perfect end to a truly fabulous visit to South Georgia, one of my favorite places on earth!