King Haakon Bay, South Georgia
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 03 Dec 2021

King Haakon Bay, South Georgia, 12/3/2021, National Geographic Explorer

  • Aboard the National Geographic Explorer
  • Antarctica

Today we are anchored in King Haakon Bay. Where is that? I would say, “It is on the southwest side of South Georgia.” However, since South Georgia is shaped like a comma, King Haakon Bay is north of most of the island. Anyway, it is a beautiful morning: cloudy, moody, and not really cold. We are deep into the bay at a site named Peggotty Bluff (or Camp), named for the Peggotty family who lived in an overturned boat … as written in David Copperfield.

Why the dickens would somebody name this place Peggotty Bluff? The people who were living under an overturned boat, of course! That would be Ernest Shackleton and his five companions who had recently arrived from Elephant Island in Antarctica. The phrase “recently arrived” does leave most of the meat still on the table. The journey took 17 days, a few near-death experiences and no restful nights. Their mission was to find help to rescue the rest of the crew left on Elephant Island. Unfortunately, the only other people on this island were on the other side.

So, rather than using the boat, the James Caird, as a house, why did they not sail to the other side of the island? The official word is that the boat was too damaged to attempt yet another leg in the open sea. I think no one wanted to get back in that boat ever again! They were so opposed to getting in the boat again that it seemed like a good idea for three of them to walk to one of the whaling stations, along an uncharted path, across snow-covered mountains and glaciers. It was May after all, a pleasant hike on a sunlit spring morning does not sound too bad. Oops, southern hemisphere! It was a very unpleasant trek beginning on a dark winter morning lasting 36 hours, but they made it.

I think our summer morning ashore is the most adventure I am ready for before breakfast. As it has become usual, we are greeted by seals, penguins and tussock. Yes, tussock, the big grass that things hide in. Some of us march, others saunter, and some just stand around. A great morning for all. During breakfast, we leave Peggotty Bluff, King Haakon Bay and South Georgia to find another morning in another place, just like we always do.

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