arrived at South Georgia
This is the first time I have had the chance to sit down and write since arriving last night from Stanley. The journey across has taken us six days in total - and it was absolutely fabulous. We sailed on a fishing trawler based out of Stanley - the New Polar - a 75 metre boat that fishes in the South Georgia and Falkland zones. The boat is home to 50 or 60 Spanish, Peruvian and Chilean blokes - an amazing group. There were five of us on board travelling as scientists and observers - taking the chance to see how the fishery works in practice. Two days into the trip we arrived at Shag rocks - where we spent two long, long days in the fish factory counting, measuring, gutting - and sexing - literally hundreds of ice and tooth fish. In total, the boat caught over 20 tonnes of fish - with little by catch other than one small species that is not eaten - the bulk of the catch was made up of the two main economically important fish - Patagonian Toothfish and Mackerel Icefish. I'll write more about that later on. The journey over to South Georgia from there was relatively easy - not half as bumpy as the trip out from Stanley which was pretty rough at times. And, before you ask, no seasickness.
To arrive at South Georgia on a sunny, calm day is just unbelievable - not only is it particularly beautiful, but it is a rare day that the wind is absent. We landed at around 5pm, giving me chance to walk around to the whaling station at Grytviken before dinner with Victor, one of the fisheries observers on board - he only had an hour on land before heading back onto the trawler to spent a few months perhaps on board carrying out his monitoring work.
The walk around to the station only take ten of fifteen minutes, a perfect opportunity to take in lots of fur seal pups, king penguins and the occasional elephant seal. I am feeling rather spoilt and overwhelmed - not only because of the privilege of being here, but also by the welcome extended to me by the base members. We joined them for dinner - made by Alistair Wilson - a relative of Edward Wilson who died with Scott just one hundred years ago almost to the day. Then it was time for the DJ in me to take over the lap top and organise some serious Glee disco music - we literally danced till we dropped at dawn....oh dear.
Today was staid by contrast - a welcome tour of the new base - well, relatively new - and then a guided tour of the Whaling station by museum Katy, a most excellent guide. Many of the features that were here when I sailed here fourteen years ago - including the large sheds that covered the processing machinery used to butcher the whales have gone, leaving the metalwork of the factory exposed and rusting - in stark contrast to the relatively pristine habitat surrounding it. The island is in late summer now - the flowering plants have almost finished - just the occasional dandelion still in bloom - but the rest of the grassland is beginning to fade and soon the winter will begin to creep in. Keiron and I are hoping to get away at the end of the week to spend a few days walking and bathing on the Barf peninsula to the east of Cumberland bay from where I am now writing. Tomorrow, however, is the day of the annual half marathon, so I am heading off on the walking party which has to leave early, so it is time to head to bed. Just one last thing, however, we had a lecture this evening by Chris Nunn, who was the leader of M Company of Royal Marines who liberated South Georgia thirty years ago in April - a fascinating and lovely man who was accompanied by his wife Siobhan - he gave a slide show of his time here and it was not only riveting but moving also - what an amazing life.
Too much has happened since I last blogged, so this is just a quick run down - more tomorrow. Night - Gerard