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Howard Banwell | profile | all galleries >> Voyage to Antarctica >> South Georgia >> Gold Harbour tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Elsehul Bay | Salisbury Plain | Fortuna Bay | Grytviken | Gold Harbour | Drygalski Fjord

Gold Harbour

What a sunrise! Overnight we cruised slowly to Gold Harbour, and from our balcony we were greeted with the sight of a pink and yellow sky over a bank of icebergs to the east, and a dark blue sky above us and to the west over the large, deep Bertrab glacier. When we were ready to brave the cold and we emerged onto a windless deck just before 4:00 a.m., the sun crept above the horizon and the mountaintops at the end of the bay lit up with the warmth of its first rays. Over the next fifteen minutes we watched the sun’s reflection slide gradually down the ice-clad slopes into the sea, and eventually the whole bay was bathed in the most wonderful rich golden glow. An incredible sight, and undoubtedly one of life’s most memorable moments.

As the sun rose higher its light was diffused by patches of thin low cloud, but it was still a fine morning and at 5.45am we boarded a Zodiac and went across to the shore where we had already spotted yet another vast colony of King Penguins. Dotted amongst them, and seeming to integrate quite well, were the occasional Gentoo, unperturbed by their inferior size, and apparently un-bullied by their King relatives.

But the highlight of the beach was a large group of several hundred Elephant Seals, mainly bachelor males lazing on the sand and occasionally rousing themselves for mock battles with their neighbours to the accompaniment of loud, deep guttural grunting. Unlike their much smaller male Fur Seal relatives, however, these two-tonne monsters (up to four tonnes when fully grown) took no notice of us humans so we could walk freely amongst them. Having said that, Lisa was a bit wary of them and stayed at the edge of the surf just soaking in the magical scene while a young Elephant Seal pup nibbled playfully at her ankles.

The fully mature males, having fasted for months as they claimed and protected their area of beach and mated with as many females as possible, had all gone to sea to feed, as had the breeding females. But scattered along the beach were this summer’s cubs, now about a metre and a half long, weaned but with no teeth, abandoned by their mothers and living off their blubber until they too – now toothed – could head out to sea to start the whole cycle again.

This was perhaps the most enjoyable beach so far and we could have spent the whole day here quite happily. Eventually, however, the Captain radioed to the beach that we should return to the ship as soon as possible as a gale-force katabatic wind had started to whistle down the glaciers into the bay. Those of us who were last getting off the beach got pretty wet on the return run as short choppy waves built up very quickly on the previously sheltered water.
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Bertrab Glacier
Bertrab Glacier
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Pale-faced Sheathbill, possibly juvenile
Pale-faced Sheathbill, possibly juvenile
Recce trip to the beach
Recce trip to the beach
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
Sunrise at Gold Harbour
King Penguin rookery, Gold Harbour
King Penguin rookery, Gold Harbour
The start of iceberg alley, outside Gold Harbour
The start of iceberg alley, outside Gold Harbour
Elephant seals, young females
Elephant seals, young females
Toothless Elephant Seal pups
Toothless Elephant Seal pups
Southern Elephant Seals, young males
Southern Elephant Seals, young males
Playful Elephant Seal pup
Playful Elephant Seal pup
Elephant Seal pup using Lisa's ankle as a teething ring
Elephant Seal pup using Lisa's ankle as a teething ring
Elephant Seal pup
Elephant Seal pup
Elephant Seals, male juveniles
Elephant Seals, male juveniles
Elephant Seals, male juveniles
Elephant Seals, male juveniles
Elephant Seal, female
Elephant Seal, female
Elephant Seals, young males, mock fighting
Elephant Seals, young males, mock fighting
Elephant Seals, young males, mock fighting
Elephant Seals, young males, mock fighting
Elephant Seals, young males, mock fighting
Elephant Seals, young males, mock fighting
Elephant Seals, young males, mock fighting
Elephant Seals, young males, mock fighting
Elephant Seals, young males, mock fighting
Elephant Seals, young males, mock fighting
Elephant Seals, young males
Elephant Seals, young males
Moulting Elephant Seal
Moulting Elephant Seal
King Penguin emerging from the surf
King Penguin emerging from the surf
King Penguin emerging from the surf
King Penguin emerging from the surf
Group of king Penguins off fishing
Group of king Penguins off fishing
Group of king Penguins off fishing
Group of king Penguins off fishing
Group of king Penguins off fishing
Group of king Penguins off fishing
Placid Elephant Seals, Gold Harbour beach
Placid Elephant Seals, Gold Harbour beach
Gentoo Penguin
Gentoo Penguin
Gentoo Penguin
Gentoo Penguin
King Penguin rookery
King Penguin rookery
Following on...
Following on...
Fur Seal pup
Fur Seal pup
Fur Seal bull
Fur Seal bull
Minerva at anchor
Minerva at anchor
Gentoo Penguin, oblivious to its larger neighbours
Gentoo Penguin, oblivious to its larger neighbours
Fur Seal pup
Fur Seal pup
Moulting Elephant Seals
Moulting Elephant Seals
Young male Elephant Seal
Young male Elephant Seal
Agressive Fur Seal pup
Agressive Fur Seal pup
The King Penguin breeding colony at Gold Harbour
The King Penguin breeding colony at Gold Harbour
The King Penguin breeding colony at Gold Harbour
The King Penguin breeding colony at Gold Harbour