Getting Ready for SGI!

I am down to the last few days before departing for Montevideo and thence on the motor vessle Plancius for a tour out to South Georgia Island.  This island is about a thousand miles off the coast of Argentina and one of the most remote in the world. 

Preparations have been extensive.  I had to buy an international driving license, trip insurance, a new jacket, shower shoes, a monopod and a new lens.  A tripod is just too bulky to carry around in the conditions found there and there are few situations where it would really be required.  The new lens is a Nikon VR that should be sufficent for most of the penguin images.

Perhaps most important has been in trying to get in better shape for climbing hills that are often infested with tussock grass.  This grass is sometimes called “bowling ball grass” as it forms thick balls of roots and stems that can easily trip one up.  I have been walking 3.7 miles every other day and on the alternate day, climbing stairs.  This morning I climbed 34 flights, which was 442 steps, but this is nothing compared to the 160 flights I climbed the morning I left for Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro ten years ago!

South Georgia is famous as the successful destination in 1916 of Ernest Shackleton’s famous escape from Elephant Island in the Antarctic.  He and a crew of six sailed over 800 miles through the open ocean to reach the island, where whaling stations were located.  All 28 men in his crew on Endurance survived the sinking of that ship in the ice.  He later died of a heart attack on South Georgia on a later expedition.  His grave is there and I fully intend to follow the tradition of throwing a half-finished drink on the gravestone!

South Georgia is now the home of tens of thousands of penguins, mostly Kings and Macaronis, but some Chinstraps, and Gentoos.  There are also nesting sea birds like Albatroi and Shearwaters and a weird bird called a Ivory Sheathbill, the only “land bird” of the Antarctic. 

There are also herds of reindeer that were introduced here early in the twentieth century to provide meat for the crew at whaling stations.  They will be removed in January because of the damage to the environment.  That is sad, as they have been part of the landscape for a century.  So I will be one of the last to photograph these large mammals on SGI.

We finish the tour in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.  Rather than flying directly home, I will spend an extra day there visiting the TDF National Park.  The whole trip will be 22 days, including travel.