JANUARY 6, 2013
54° 26′ SOUTH AND 36° 11′ WEST
ST. ANDREW’S BAY, SOUTH GEORGIA
Our fifth and final day of exploring South Georgia involved a memorable landing at St. Andrew’s Bay, home to the island’s largest colony of King Penguins. Comprised of more than 150,000 breeding pairs, the colony contains close to half-a-million birds when the juveniles, non-breeding adults and recently hatched chicks are included.
Framed by three mountains (Mount Roots, Mount Kling and Nordenskjold Peak) which tower 2,000 metres above sea level, the St. Andrew’s Bay King Penguin colony sits at the confluence of three glaciers.
The pungent aromas of urea and guano hit us long before we stepped ashore.
Katabatic winds – dense cold winds generated by glaciers – buffeted us about on the beach. Capable of flipping boats, these chaotic winds have forced visitors to seek shelter inside the British Antarctic Survey’s emergency hut at St. Andrew’s Bay.
The glacial outwash plain pulsated with non-stop action: family conflicts and life and death dramas played out before us. Loping like a quarter horse in slow motion, I observed a large Antarctic Fur Seal cut a wide swath through the penguin colony, sending adults and chicks scattering for safety. Caught in the melee, some of the adult birds dropped eggs that they had been painstakingly incubating. Accordingly, we observed the breeding colony from a respectful distance, atop an adjacent hillside.