Morning: Another OK day at sea -- not too rough and I'm feeling fine. We saw our first decent-sized iceberg! It was right in the sun, so no good photos unfortunately. (I tried to make it black-and-white to get rid of the glare...) It was probably several stories tall.
Our first looks at South Georgia Island! Well actually, we see Willis and Bird Islands first. These are the outer islands just off the coast of South Georgia.
Hurray! The weather and sea conditions are good enough that we can board our Zodiacs and go to shore!
It's quite a chore to put on all my cold-weather gear: camisole, base layer bottoms and top, sweatshirt, thick waterproof thermal pants, base layer socks, middle layer socks, another thick layer of socks, neck scarf, puffy jacket, waterproof pants, waterproof jacket, hat, hood, base layer gloves, middle layer gloves, waterproof mittens, muck boots, and finally my lifejacket. I am ready for the Zodiac!
After getting a bit splashed on the Zodiac ride over and seeing some penguins porpoising up out of the water on their own way to the beach, we all disembark our inflatables and make our first landing on South Georgia Island at Undine Harbour. And here, we experience almost every weather condition there is: sun, rain, hail, wind (normal to gale-force), and snow. There is definitely an odor on the beach -- not sure how much of it is penguin guano or elephant seals -- luckily for us, it's not overpowering (yet). The view is outstanding! I see Gentoo penguins, some King penguins, elephant seals, fur seals, sheathbills (I'm told they eat everything and that's why they have featherless chicken-like heads), flying skuas, various albatross, terns, and petrels (I now know how to tell a few species apart, but not all).
I wandered down the beach a bit, being careful to give the seals their space and not getting in the way of the penguins who are also wandering around. The landscape was stunning, especially in each of the weather conditions as the sky turned gray to yellow to gray-with-blue-patches. And the soundtrack was just amazing: all the usual elephant seal noises (sound to me like belches, farts, and hiccups), penguins calling, the sea breaking against the beach, wind in our ears -- everything screaming South Georgia.
Top photo: Gentoo penguins in the tussock grass (they have a white patch around and behind their eyes)
Middle photo: King penguins (they have brilliant sunbursts on their chests and ear/neck area) -- they remind me of mafia bosses when they stand around
Bottom photo: More gentoos