I have just been on a most spectacular jolly down a fjord on (in? at?) South

Georgia. Drygalski Fjord. Spectacular. Even those who had seen rock in the last

year were staring with gaping jaws. And grinning like pigs, if pigs could grin.

We’re talking ice, ICE, 30m high at the end of the glacier and that’s

just where it pours off the rock. Glaciers everywhere it seems, to my uneducated

eye. And cliffs, mountainous, peaks in the clouds, towering around us. I couldn’t

really cope with the scale. From our little dinghy it all seemed very big but

then, when I got back on the Shack, it all seemed even bigger.

Tall, straight cliffs plummeting into deep aquamarine milky blue glacier water.

The spray of salty ocean in my face, the taste, the smell of seaweed and cry

of birds all around us.

All these great memories overwhelmed by the magnificence of the land around

us. The Fjord is long and deep, as you would expect, but reasonably wide. Wide

enough to hold many bays each with it’s own glacier pouring into the ocean.

From a bird’s eye view it could well have all been the same glacier with

many outlets but I didn’t have a bird’s eye view. I was at sea level

in an inflatable boat, loving the waves. At the far end of the first end we

visited (that I at the time thought was the only end to the fjord), were hundreds

of little storm petrels floating on the surface, below the ice cliff. Like flies,

but pretty. Further back, a bunch of giant petrels gathered around us, trailing

water as they ran and flapped in an attempt to become airborne. A few penguins,

camouflaged on the black and white scree. The occasional seal, loafing. But

these were the jesters giving scale to the land, the ice, the rock, ice pouring

on ancient timescales, splashing into the bay beside us.

The last fjord we visited was called Larsen Harbour. I don’t think any

of us jolly merchants knew where we were going at this point, or what to expect.

If the main fjord was a motorway, this subsidiary was the lane you leave on.

(I can’t even remember the words for these things!) It was thin and quiet,

sheltered, the cliffs towering and vertical. And long. We explored, our little

boat and the fibreglass rescue craft, continually expecting an end in sight.

And it kept going: deep, thin and quiet. Oh yeah, and cold. Our skipper stopped

the boat at the far end and out we climbed. That’s right, we climbed out.

The first rock I have stood on for 14 months. Not a bad re-introduction I would


The above happened three days ago. Since then we’ve spent two days at

Grytvikken and are now floating off the coast of Bird Island. My feet have been

re-introduced to land! And how luscious it feels. Soft soggy green moss that

bounces underfoot, rocks, hard to touch, warm wind. Falling asleep outside in

the sun after eating a packed lunch. Entire days outside without having to fear

the inevitable cold encroaching. T-shirt weather. Hills.

South Georgia was still as beautiful

as ever and the people and wildlife as friendly. King penguins, elephant seals,

juvenile furries, albatrosses, petrels and blue-eyed shags. The South Georgia

pintail: beautiful innocent looking carnivorous ducks. Annoying prickly stickly

burnet clusters that stick all over your feet and legs. Men playing football

on the old pitch set up by the whalers early last century. The old church, I

rang the bells, tiny star-shaped flowers in the dry grass, tussock grass hiding

fur seals and other dangers, a king penguin with freshly hatched chick. The

rusty whaling station and old dam for hydroelectric energy. A crashed helicopter,

a WW1 gun, wildlife overtaking them all. If any of you out there reading this

ever consider an Antarctic cruise, make sure this island is on the itinerary!

3 thoughts on “Jolly

  1. btw these photos are by Dave Rees, one of the crew on this ship and also a photographer. Photos on the previous entry are by Graham Gillie..and ones before that are a mixture. Very few are by me as I don’t have a digi camera. So, sorry for being rubbish at attributing them and thanks to Dave, Graham, Frank Swinton, Kathy Hayes, Jeff Cohen, Simon Coggins and everyone else at Halley who I’ve pilfered from! If anyone is interested in any particular photo however, I do know who they’re all by and have originals!

  2. what’s the size and origin of the human population on S. Georgia? Can’t remember. Am assuming British colony.


    Hello landlubber. This big brown isle (and a portion of its wildlife) beckons you.

  3. The BAS base has about 9 people, then there is a marine officer and the museum staff and possibly a couple of other non-BAS locals. The base is operated by BAS for the South Georgia Government which is itself a dependancy of the Falkland Islands.. all very colonial. Used to be a military base originally and then turned civilian with science focus then back to the military during the Falkland conflict and back to civilian only a few years ago.. main income now is fisheries I think plus whatever tourism comes there way.

    See you soon!

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