South Georgia is a very remote inhospitable collection of islands in the Southern Ocean, about 750 nautical miles east of the Falkland Islands, and over 800 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula. The main island is very mountainous, about 104 miles long, covered with snow and many glaciers, located around 55 degrees south latitude. The scenery is spectacular, as is the quantity of wildlife. The largest King Penguin colony in the world is at St. Andrews Bay, and many beaches are also occupied by Antarctic Fur Seals and Elephant Seals, which have made a recovery from their near-extinction by sealers in the 19th century. Whaling in the 20th century also plays a significant role in the history of the island, with the Norwegians having established major shore-based whaling stations at Stromness, Grytviken, and several other locations. Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Antarctic expedition of 1914-1917 passed through here on the way to Antarctica and he returned about 18 months later after a heroic 800 mile sail in a small lifeboat to initiate a rescue mission for 22 of his crew stranded back on Elephant Island near the Antarctic Peninsula after their ship, the Endurance, had been crushed in ice and sank. The rescue mission was successful, and Shackleton returned to Grytviken in 1922 leading another expedition, but he died on board his ship in the harbor and is now buried at Grytviken. Today, a British Antarctic Survey team and a few support staff and museum officials live at Grytviken, with a total population of around 30 people.
We enjoyed many specatacular landings on South Georgia, including many close encounters with the gigantic penguin colonies, and some interesting wary encounters with Fur Seals and Elephant Seals!