4 Apr 2018

4 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Seven: South Georgia - Drygalski Fjord

The plan for the final morning at South Georgia was to do a zodiac cruise at Cooper Island, off the South East of South Georgia, followed by a cruise in the nearby Drygalski Fjord in the afternoon.
South Georgia
Cooper Island & Drygalski Fjord: Drygalski Fjord is a seven mile long fjord to the South West of Cooper Island
Iceberg: This reasonable sized iceberg was seen as we were sailing towards Drygalski Fjord
However, as we were getting up it was clear that the wind had increased significantly overnight & there was too high a swell to safely consider a zodiac ride. The ship staff & Expedition staff quickly came up with a Plan B to cruise into Drygalski Fjord & to see if the wind & sea had calmed down for the afternoon. The fjord is wide enough to allow the Plancius to safely cruise all the way to the glacier at the far end. The fjord was still windy, but we could still look from the deck, albeit it was fairly cold.
Drygalski Fjord: When the water looks this blue, it's an indication it is really cold
Drygalski Fjord: The fjord was charted by the Second German 1911-12 Antarctic Expedition & was named after Professor Erich von Drygalski who lead the First German 1091-03 Antarctic Expedition. It is believed it might have been where Anthony de la Roche (an English merchant) may have spent two weeks in 1675, when he discovered South Georgia after being blown off course whilst travelling to South America from Europe. Captain James Cook made the first landing on South Georgia in 1775
Drygalski Fjord: Looking back on where we had just passed
Drygalski Fjord: There were several small glaciers high up on the steep walls of the fjord
Drygalski Fjord: The fjord ended in this impressive glacier
Drygalski Fjord: Getting closer to the glacier
Gentoo Penguins: making use of this convenient small ice flow
I was surprised to hear a shout of Weddell Seal as we were approaching the far end of the fjord, but that was more down to my lack of knowledge that there is a small population in South Georgia. Looking into their status, the South Georgia population are unusually for Weddell Seals as they breed on land, rather than on the ice. Perhaps the presence of the large glacier at the end of this long fjord helps to keep the water colder than around other parts of South Georgia.
Weddell Seal: The main breeding area is Antarctica & the South Sandwich Islands with a small population in South Georgia
Weddell Seal: these aren't the best of photos, but it only really showed its head & didn't come close to the Plancius. It was the only one we saw on the trip. The small snout & head help to identify Weddell Seals from other Seals, but it also helps having Expedition staff on board who see them regularly in Antarctica. Seem to remember it was Hans from the Expedition staff who first picked this up
There was a reasonable selection of other Birds, as well as, Antarctic Fur Seals in the fjord. However, it was the scenery that really stole the show.
Cape Petrel: There was a large raft of several hundred Cape Petrels towards the far end of the fjord
Fairy Prion
Fairy Prion
Wilson's Storm-petrel: I saw around a hundred individuals in the fjord
South Georgia Pintail: A pair flew around the fjord at one point
Snowy Sheathbill: This curious Snowy Sheathbill appeared over the Plancius for a couple of minutes to check us out
Antarctic Fur Seal: There were a number of Antarctic Fur Seals feeding in the water just in front of the glacier at the far end of the fjord
We saw the first Chinstrap Penguins as we were leaving Drygalski Fjord, as well as, some Gentoo Penguins & Macaroni Penguins.
Gentoo Penguin: Great to see some more Gentoo Penguins
Chinstrap Penguin: Chinstrap Penguins occur throughout the Subantarctic Islands around the South Pole
Chinstrap Penguin: My second Penguin Tick of the Odyssey

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