A Surprise a Day, Keeps Complacency Away!
On Thursday 21st January, Franco's sixtieth birthday, the wind was light and had gone northerly, perfect for kayaking up Moraine Fjord to the snout of the Hamberg Glacier and Harker Glacier. We passed berggy bits, that had calved off the glaciers, on their way out to sea (or so we thought). Neither of us had kayaked in this kind of environment before and weaving our way through the ice floes to as close to the tottering cliffs of ice as we dared was an amazing experience.
Few seals and penguins occupy the upper reaches of the fjord, possibly because it is further from the ocean, though a large female elephant seal was wallowing in a stream, trying to cool down on this sunny day.
Kath paddling near the snout of the Hamberg Glacier
Mid afternoon, we paddled back, and most of the ice had disappeared. As we turned into King Edward Cove, a surprise awaited us; instead of going out to sea as they had done every other day, the berggy bits, pushed by the northerly breeze had drifted into the bay towards Grytviken. Luckily Caramor, tied to the jetty, had escaped the larger ones which had floundered against the shore. There was just one very big one left, grounded, about 20 metres away. As we hauled out onto the jetty, it broke up and started drifting towards us. The kayaks were packed and the boat made ready in record time and we pushed off to anchor in the lee of King Edward Point.
I took Franco out(side) for dinner as a special treat. We sipped our Caipirinhas* made with crushed berggy bits, but the ice never did melt.
Franco enjoying a starter of Terrine de Sanglier au Cognac with Asparagus
The next morning was glorious, it was the first time that the summit of Mount Paget, the highest peak on South Georgia at 2934m, and the whole of the Allardyce Range were clear of cloud.
The Allardyce Range, Mount Paget centre left
After lunch, we sailed for Cobblers Cove, 10 nautical miles away on the Barff Peninsula. Many parts of the coastline remain unsurveyed and are greyed out on the chart but the area we were sailing in, however, has been. Some way off, on our starboard bow, something was causing water spray to fly. "Could it be a whale?" we wondered. The spray was generated by a breaking wave, always in the same location as if over a reef just at the surface. None was marked on the chart. We tacked and headed out to sea.
We were making good progress, the headland shimmered in the heat of the sun. Ahead of us, a yellowy-grey band obliterated the horizon: sea fog. Suddenly it was upon us, driven by an 18 knot wind. The visibility reduced to 50 metres, just as we were about to make landfall. We are using two different electronic chart systems but neither is particularly accurate in this region. The gap into Cobblers Cove is 75metres wide and we didn't want to miss it. Out of the mist, a mountain loomed. Slowly we edged towards it and in front of us the channel opened up as the cloud lifted, revealing a magical place.
Looking back at the entrance to Cobblers Cove
On the beaches of Cobblers Cove, the fur seals scamper around. The noises they make can be melodious, but at times sound like a girl screaming.
The following morning we awoke to a snow storm, the cliffs around us were white and the tops lost in the cloud. By nightfall the wind had increased to gale force and we spent the night on tenterhooks as Caramor was batted around by katabatic winds. By morning the weather was glorious again and the snow had melted. Nothing here can be taken for granted, South Georgia certainly keeps us on our toes.
* Caipirinha is the Brazilian national drink made from limes, cachaça rum, sugar and crushed ice.