I am a part timer who is only aboard Elinca for the current leg and I’m going to make an audacious claim. For those who are currently aboard and have or will have completed more than one leg, this will be the most memorable. like any prediction I might be proved utterly wrong and I ought to caveat this claim with the assumption that there is no untoward misfortune lurking ahead that will be memorable for the wrong reasons. we are back in ocean passage making mode and the last few days of coastal exploration are behind us. South Georgia is vanishing into the shroud of mist and snow showers that have graced our day of departure. soon it will be below the horizon and be a memory. I suppose that now I had better try to justify my claim.
One reason might be a recognition of the mateship of my fellow crew. Being shipmates is a very privileged and special relationship and whilst it might be tempting to base part of my claim on their company, it would also be innocuous. Without in any way undermining the pleasure of their company, all crews will rightly claim theirs as the best. I don’t want to enter a bidding war of claims with other leg crews. As one sea song puts it “you might regret all that time spent at sea but you will never forget all the fine company”. So much as my shipmates have added to the pleasures of South Georgia, their company is not the basis of my claim, but a record of my enjoyment would be incomplete without acknowledgement of their contribution.
Yesterday we were alongside in Grytviken in glorious sunshine. We were surrounded by the industrial heritage of whaling station infrastructure and catchers; the paraphernalia of death and destruction of the whale and the life support of the whalers including a Norwegian Church. Above the green banks and ridges that surround the bay we could see lofty snow covered peaks reflecting the warmth of sunlight in a clear blue sky. Fur and Elephant seals nestled with king, Gentoo and even a pair of chinstrap. Terns, Arctic and Antarctic, flew overhead. otherwise the air was still.
Overnight the wind blew. This morning we awoke to a dusting of snow, in the distance bergy bits of ice littered the bay. Pancakes had formed on the surface. Visibility was much reduced, yesterday’s green ridges were white but the summits of the mountains were lost to the cloud base. Once clear of the bay the sea took an a more ominous and foreboding character. The waves with their white crests and relentless rhythm were dark and imposing. Spray broke over Elinca’s decks and occasionally the crew. A whale first blew and then surfaced within a few hundred yards and for 10 minutes followed us before heading off on its own ocean passage. Seals and penguins broke the surface as they made their way to and from the shore and feeding grounds. Wandering Albatross swooped overhead and sat on the water around us. Glaciers drop into the sea and contrast with the rock and scree of the foothills of the coastalscape and shoreline.
I feel the inadequacy of my words to describe and set the scene but if I can cut to the chase, we are in a unique and fragile environment surrounded by nature in its raw and harsh beauty. South Georgia is an island of extremes. It is unforgiving and it holds an allure that gets under the skin and casts a spell that captivates with beauty and intimidates with fear. It tantalises with both and just as you think one has the upper hand it plays the others. Tomorrow, unseen by us, its inhabitants and environment will continue their never ending extreme dance of life and death. Nature will continue its uncertain fight for survival. South Georgia is unpredictable, unforgiving and unforgettable.
And it is this that forms the basis of my audacious claim