By J. Brock (SARTMA)
The Late Lars-Eric Lindblad inspired Expedition Cruising.
M/S ENDEAVOUR very quickly became a happy ship and everyone aboard settled down to a leisurely routine Ė stretching and toning in the lounge at 0730, breakfast until 0900, morning lectures from 1030 to 1200, Lunch, afternoon lectures, tea, dinner and evening movie were the norm whilst at sea. Fortunately, there was a following wind at that latitude and the ship rolled but pitched ever so slightly. This made movement aboard relatively easy. (Had we been sailing in the opposite direction, it would be a completely different story.)
Shag Rocks can almost be smelled before they can be seen.
Daily lectures were diverse, in that we could be discussing seabirds of the Southern Ocean with Peter Carey in the morning and listening to Tim Severinís lecture about crossing the North Atlantic in a leather boat in the afternoon. Evening entertainment was varied with nature films and the enjoyable concerts presented by Geoffrey Haydock and Penny Smith-Haydock.
Tabular icebergs littered the Southern Ocean between the Falklands and South Georgia.
Once we crossed the Antarctic Convergence, there was lots of ice around Ė growlers and table-top icebergs as well as those that had tipped over littered the radar screen and made the afternoon on deck an awesome experience. In truth, my loyalty to the click of the shutter was distracted by the 1,000-piece puzzle some of the passengers had begun in the shipís library. Many of us were placing a few pieces together and then going out on deck to snap pictures of the ice, which in the sun, was an amazing show of turquoise, marine blue and white.
The Hon. Mrs. Alexandra Shackleton, Sir Earnest's Granddaughter.
Though we were sailing to South Georgia, the first siting of anything that resembled land was the Shag Rocks, which appeared two days into our journey, and less than a dayís sailing from South Georgia. I had spotted them before on RFA SIR BEDIVERE but the weather was cloudy then and our course was further north. With the siting on M/S ENDEAVOUR came the stench of guano, because area is an important feeding and nesting site for thousands of pairs of Blue-eyed Shags. Jetting up from 2,000 metres, the Shag Rocks are at the tip of a very broad sea-mount, which is very rich in plankton, that is the source of the food chain feeding these birds, their main catch being krill, which inhabit the Southern Ocean in abundance. Along with the shags, whales provided a spectacular display and, all of this in brilliant sunshine.
As the rocks faded into the distance, crew and passengers prepared for afternoon tea and an illustrated lecture about Sir Earnest Shackletonís ill fated Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914 to 1916 by, Tom Richie. This was followed by a look at whatís on the seabed around the Falklands, presented by Undersea Specialist, David Cothran. David had used a Remote Observation Vehicle (ROV) for some of the video work down to 500 feet. At deeper depths, videos were taken while diving in either wet or dry suits. The footage showed a vast variety of marine-life and it was accentuated by Davidís identification of the species he had filmed.
What a gold mine of information and, all I had to do is ask if I got stuck. The series of articles on the various fisheries throughout the South Atlantic Remote Territories would be more accurate as a result of knowing what questions to ask the Officials. Davidís help was crucial to that process. In mid morning 8th of March, I was able to fax my questions to Patrick Lurcock and Katherine Ross at King Edward Point and follow this up with a radio call to Patrick. It was good to touch bases with him and I looked forward to the interview.
King Penguins marching at Fortuna Bay.
During the early morning hours of the 7th, we sailed past Bird Island, where a huge nesting colony of Wandering Albatross was out of bounds due to the research that was being carried out by British Antarctic Survey. Seventeen years earlier, on RFA SIR BEDIVERE, I had taken some slides during the re-supply of that station. At that time the ship was anchored off the island but visibility was poor and I heard and smelt the colony though I couldnít see it. Ditto this time, as the sun had not risen.
Sunrise occurred at Right Whale Bay, with a colourful display, through what looked like a hole in the side of a mountain to the east south east of our anchorage. That bright spot of sun quickly clouded over and the weather, thanks to a low-pressure area that arrived with us, deteriorated. By the time breakfast was over, and the first Zodiac tour was underway, it began to drizzle and the wind picked up considerably. Nevertheless, we made our way to a huge kelp-filled bay that was teeming with fur seal pups that had been left to fend for themselves while their parents were at sea feeding. What show-offs! The bay was peppered with little eyes and snouts that would quickly disappear, only to rise again on the other side of the Zodiac. We watched Fur Seal peak-a-boo until the weather conditions became unsafe. Indeed, by the time we had all got back to the ship, the winds had picked up to gale-force and we retreated to the library, where that puzzle was coming on a treat.
Unfortunately, the landings planned for mid morning and early afternoon were scuppered due to the weather. Captain Karl Lampe began to look for a safe anchorage in the afternoon and he found it in Fortuna Bay, where a fresh layer of snow glistened in emerging sunshine. We were joined in Fortunaís calmer waters by M/S ORLOVA, also sheltering from the gale force winds. Aboard were their Expedition Leader, Tony Soper and Ruriko Lindblad, who I had met with her late husband, Lars-Eric Lindblad in 1992. During the trip ashore I was able to photograph King Penguins, Fur Seal pups and an adolescent Elephant Seal. Even though cruise ships donít land in the same area at once, it was good to meet other fellow travellers and experience the enthusiasm of M/S ORLOVAís crew, who had been allowed ashore with their passengers.
Though the landings on Salisbury Plain and Prion Island didnít happen, the brilliant, sunny end of the day on the 7th was not etched in my memory. The next day was typical for South Georgia in that the wind had subsided a little but it was dull, snowy/drizzly and cold. Landings and or Zodiac tours were made at Gold Harbour, Cooper Bay and the Drygalski Fjord. Thousands of Fur Seals greeted us as we landed at the Drygalski Fjord, which is a famous shelter from storms, which frequently plague the area. It didnít protect us from the catabolic winds that came rushing down the sides of mountains that form the fjordís geography. A huge glacier, an arm of the Novosilski Glacier, feeds into the Fjord and the scenery was breath taking.
In the next instalment we reach Godthall Bay and sail to Cumberland Bay for a landing at Grytviken.