31 May 2018

3 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Six: South Georgia's St Andrews Bay - Beach Body Ready

There was another early morning call to wake up those who failed to be up for first light as today was planned to be another busy day, starting with a landing at St Andrews Bay in the East of South Georgia. This is one of the big King Penguin colonies on South Georgia with around 150,000 pairs crammed into the area behind two mile wide beach.
South Georgia
St Andrews Bay: The beach lies in the Eastern part of South Georgia's North coast
In the pre-dinner briefing the previous evening, we had been told that the plan was we would land at the Western side of the bay as that was likely to be would be the most sheltered part of the beach. It is also away from the most dense part of the King Penguin colony. The only potential drawback with this landing site is we would have to cross a glacial river & the crew weren't sure how deep that was likely to be on the day. They thought it would be OK, however, in the past the water had sometimes been deeper than the wellington boots that the ship provided. First light on the following morning saw the Plancius conducting the final approach into the day.
Approaching St Andrews Bay: We could see there were three large glaciers
Close up of the St Andrews Bay left hand glacier
Close up of the St Andrews Bay left hand & central glaciers
Close up of the St Andrews Bay right hand glacier
St Andrews Bay: The first zodiac goes to scout the landing site
King Penguin: Looking from the Plancius it was clear this was a large colony & this was only the front of the colony
We soon had the OK to start heading for the zodiacs as the swell & the beach were OK for a landing.
A lone King Penguin keeps an eye on arrivals
While two more King Penguins check out the next zodiac
There were a few scattered Antarctic Fur Seals, as well as, the massive Southern Elephant Seals on the landing beach.
Antarctic Fur Seal: There were a few pups on the beach
Southern Elephant Seal: There were a few scattered groups of Southern Elephant Seals on the beach
Southern Elephant Seal: Beach body ready
Southern Elephant Seal: At one point, these 2 massive bulls decided to have a go at each other
Southern Elephant Seal: Like being inside our own personal David Attenborough film sequence
Southern Elephant Seal
Southern Elephant Seal
Southern Elephant Seal: It was all too much for the left hand individual which moved out of range of the fight
Southern Elephant Seal: They range throughout the Subantarctic Islands of the Southern Convergence, as well as, occurring on the Antarctic Peninsula. The world population is estimated at around 650,000 with numbers increasing in South Georgia, whereas there populations in the Indian & Pacific Oceans are declining
There were also a few scattered Birds on the landing side of the river.
King Penguin: There were reasonable numbers on this side of the river
King Penguin: There was a shallow slope to the beach so getting in the water was a gentle affair
King Penguin
King Penguin: There was a constant movement of King Penguins up & down the beach
King Penguin: They take over a year to breed so there is a constant presence of King Penguins on the breeding beaches
King Penguin
King Penguin: Just arrived
King Penguin: & straight out of the water
Southern Giant Petrel: White Nellie. A much better view compared to the one at Prion Island
Northern Giant Petrel
Brown Skua: Falklands subspecies
Roy & Lorraine Ingleston photographing King Penguins: A really great couple of birders to spend time with
Photos taken, it was now time to check out the river. It wasn't going to be a problem with the river being too deep to flood the wellingtons, however, many people were happy to have a helping hand from one of the Expedition staff. A wise precaution given the cost of the camera gear on the beach.
Crossing the river: Seabird photographer Kirk Zufelt in front with two cameras showing it wasn't difficult
King Penguin: We are ready to help you cross
Looking towards the glacier

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