Tundra Travel

Destinations

South GeorgiaTundra Travel

Rockeries with thousand of King penguins. Beaches inhabited by fur seals and elefant seals. An abandoned whaling station, surounded by a marevolous landscape.

South Georgia

General Information.

 

The island of South Georgia is one of the remotest and wildest places of the United Kingdom´s Overseas Territories. It is located 1400 kilometres (850 miles) to the east of the Falkland Islands. South Georgia does not have an airport, the only access is by ship and it takes two whole days to reach from the Falkland Islands.

 

The island measures approximately 170 kilometres (106 miles) by 30 kilometres (18 miles) and is completely mountainous, its snow-capped mountains rising to 2934 metres (9626 feet). The island has more than 160 glaciers dropping down into the sea. The landscape reminds visitors of the fjord coasts of Norway, one reason, perhaps, why Norwegian whalers felt at home during the whaling period.

 

Huge numbers of seabirds and marine mammals breed along South Georgia´s Tussock Grass fringed shores. Save for the rusting remnants of the old whaling stations, the island is virtually unspoilt by man and so offers unique opportunities to observe the unparalleled wildlife and spectacular scenery of this most beautiful part of the Southern Ocean, a true Antarctic oasis.

 

The first recorded landing on South Georgia was made by the British explorer James Cook, who discovered the island on his second voyage around the world. Hoping to find the long sought Southern Continent he was very disappointed to find that South Georgia was just an island. Cook landed in Possession Bay and claimed the island for the United Kingdom. Cook wrote: "...A country doomed by nature never once to feel the warmth of the sun´s rays, but to lie for ever buried under everlasting snow and ice."

 

Soon after James Cook, Fur Seal and Elephant Seal hunters found their way to South Georgia, exploiting the animals for their furs and oil. In the beginning of the 20th century South Georgia became the centre of the Southern Ocean whaling industry. Mainly Norwegian, but also British companies, built settlements and whaling stations in the sheltered fjords. The business lasted until 1964, by which time most of the whales were caught and populations were low. Nowadays the whales and seals are fully protected. The Fur and Elephant Seal populations have recovered and are again numerous on the beaches. The big whale species are also recovering, but slowly, and are now frequently spotted on our trips.

 

 

Climate.

 

South Georgia is located within the Antarctic Convergence, an oceanographic border that separates the cold Southern Ocean from the warmer northern Oceans. Therefore South Georgia experiences a cold Oceanic Climate. The weather can be very variable. Blue skies with sunshine can be succeeded by violent storms within half an hour. The average summer temperature at sea level is around 7.5°C (45°F). Rain and snow are possible in any season.

 

When the abundance of wildlife is considered South Georgia can only be compared with places like the Galapagos Islands. The sheer number of penguins, petrels and seals is unequalled in the world. The island is home to truly millions of seabirds and seals. The sight of tens of thousands of King Penguins on Salisbury Plain and in St. Andrew´s Bay is unforgettable. But it is not only in numbers that the island can boast several records. It is also home to the largest flying bird species in the world, the enormous Wandering Albatross, and the largest seal species, the Southern Elephant Seal.. Other animals that are often seen are: Reindeer (introduced), Gentoo Penguins, Macaroni Penguins, Grey-headed Albatrosses, Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, White-chinned Petrels, several species of prions and storm petrels, Brown Skuas, Dominican Gulls, Antarctic Terns, Sheathbills and endemic South Georgia Pintails.

 

 

Frequently visited places.

 

For more detailed information on our programmes, please see the itineraries section

 

Bay of Isles with breeding Wandering Albatrosses on Prion Island, and Salisbury Plain with one of the largest King Penguin colonies in the world.

 

Fortuna Bay. A scenic fjord into which Shackleton descended during his epic crossing of the island in 1916. The last leg of this walk is sometimes retraced On our trips. There is a nice King Penguin colony at the head of the bay.

 

Grytviken is an abandoned Norwegian whaling station. It bears testimony to a less environmentally conscious era. Nowadays King Penguins can be seen walking down the street and Elephant Seals and Fur Seals have retaken the beaches. There is a great museum on the natural history and the whaling period. Sir Ernest Shackleton was buried at Grytviken in 1922. A toast (with whisky preferably) at his grave is a tradition with travellers.

 

St. Andrews Bay. South Georgia´s largest King Penguin colony with approximately 150,000 breeding pairs. The bay is very exposed so that landing is not always possible.

 

Gold Harbour is the abridged version of South Georgia´s wildlife and scenery in one place. It is regarded by many as the most beautiful place of the island. King Penguins, Gentoo Penguins and Elephant Seals are the players in this natural amphitheatre.

 

Drygalski Fjord is a wild, rugged fjord at the far east site of the island. Ice and rock dominate the landscape. A ship-cruise into the fjord often completes the visit to South Georgia.

Corporate image:Xavier Marlí

Web Design and Development:Xavier Marlí