Dessert first, anyone? Never before had I wolfed down freshly baked butterscotch-chip cookies and coffee for breakfast, but trust me, it's not an unpleasant way to begin a day in the Antarctic (or anywhere else, I suspect). It's also a rapid way to fuel up if it's 4 a.m. and you're in a hurry to pull on boots, gloves, a hat and four layers of warm clothing and climb into a Zodiac boat for the first of three—three!—expeditions in the same day at major bird and seal breeding grounds on the remote, remarkable wonder of the world that is South Georgia Island.
Those of you who already have been following our three-week trip to Antarctica aboard the Russian oceanographic vessel the Akademik Sergey Vavilov (and if you haven't been following, please feel free to scroll down or look at the index on the right to find earlier posts) have seen amazing photos from Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands, the open ocean and parts of South Georgia Island. Prepare for more.
On this day Pamelia and I and our shipmates would wander through the beautiful landscapes, wildly changing weather and extraordinary wildlife at Salisbury Plain, Prion Island and Elsehul, three of the gems of South Georgia Island. We would see a total of 25 animal species, including four types of albatrosses, three kinds of seals, and a trio of penguin varieties. It would be another day-of-a-lifetime, of which this trip had provided several already. I will let the pictures below tell the story.
By dinner time on this mid-November Monday at the bottom of the world, Pamelia and I were back on the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, once again energized and exhausted and exhilarated. We had been phenomenally fortunate over the previous few days, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the One Ocean Expedition team and the Russian captain and crew. Visitors to South Georgia Island—and there aren't that many of them—sometimes are able to go ashore only once or twice (or not at all) because of waves, weather and breeding-season restrictions. We had gone ashore at an unheard-of seven spots on the island. Seven. All of them unforgettable.
Let by Mark Carwardine, the renowned British wildlife photographer, zoologist, conservationist and writer who had set up this entire trip, we and our fellow adventurers raised glasses of champagne in a toast to all we had seen. And to the final, crowning destination ahead.
"Next stop, Antarctica," said Mark. . —Craig Neff and Pamelia Markwood