Friday 13 November, 3.31pm, still on the way to South Georgia
Sea days are utterly wonderful, you know. I mean, don't get me wrong, the excursions are the main thing, that’s why we’ve come on the trip after all, but it’s really nice having a bit more free time, which is in short supply around here. I actually managed to have not quite a nap, but certainly a drowse earlier before lunch – which was good, because I felt a bit off colour. There’s a stomach bug going round the ship and I was terrified I’d caught it – not only would that be bad in terms of the actual feeling unwell, but in an attempt to curb the spread of infection, they’ve
been quarantining everyone who’s come down with it in their cabins for at least 48 hours. Not fun at ALL – not only would you miss the upcoming excursions, but you’d be bored out of your wits. Apparently one of the girls on staff (her name’s Noz Darker – isn’t that the best name you’ve ever heard in your life? Noz Darker. She should fight crime) got into a bit of a to-do with the doctor because she said they were getting carried away with things – they won’t let us self-serve at breakfast anymore, for example. They have to do it all wearing gloves. So Noz was complaining a bit about this and saying it was overkill, and as though the doc dosed her himself, she promptly came down with it a few hours later. It’s just people throwing up, and mostly they seem to feel fine after the first day, but I definitely don’t want it, not now we’re about to get to South Georgia. As it is, I think it was either too much coffee in the morning or too much red wine last night that resulted in my tummy feeling a little bit unsettled earlier. My faux-snooze has perked me right up, which I’m glad about – I got caught retching in the bathroom by Annie, the second in command, and she was very concerned. I shall choose to believe a tiny part of it was about my health as much as because she was scared there was another case.
So let me continue to catch you up on what I’ve been doing so far, since I suspect time is of the essence – South Georgia’s going to be hectic as anything from the sounds of it. After the fun of West Point and Carcass, which were relatively easy logistically speaking, we moved on to the
Jason Islands, where we planned to go ashore at Steeple Jason. Now, Steeple Jason is not easy to get at – Woody, the expedition leader, has never managed it before. (Let us pause now whilst Lowri absorbs the fact that there is a man on this ship called Woody.) The easiest place to get ashore involves clambering over lots of slippery, kelp-covered rocks and that is only achievable when the tides are right. Far from ideal, but the best of a bad lot. When they came over the PA to announce this, warning anyone who wasn’t up for it to maybe sit this one out, I must confess I did consider it for a moment. Only a moment, but I really didn’t want to faceplant in front of all these people, and as you all know, I can and do fall over walking down perfectly flat paved streets, so climbing over rocks whilst wearing fourteen extra layers and a pair of wellies (stylish wellies, but wellies nonetheless) seemed like a recipe for disaster. However, in the end it broke down like this – 1%
of me didn’t want to go in case I genuinely hurt myself by falling down. 9% of me didn’t want to go in case I hurt my pride by falling down. 40% of me wanted to go for the sheer love of adventure and wildlife and views and all that malarkey. And the remaining 50% just didn’t want to look like a wimp in front of Jamie. The decision made, I trundled off in the next Zodiac, where in an utterly unexpected move, I got onto the grass with barely a stumble (stood on my waterproofs once with my other foot because they’re a bit long, but apart from that I was golden). And once I’d arrived, the 60% of me that was thinking silly unworthy thoughts about looking suave totally evaporated and I became 100% all about the nature, because wow. What a place.
For a start, the rocks were not THAT hard to get over, and I do quite like messing about on rocks anyway when I’m alone and far from judging eyes (as anyone who read the Rainbow
Beach bit of my Oz blog will know. For those who haven’t, it is a fairly entertaining tale in which I end up bloody soaked because I totally misjudge how long it will take for the tide to come in and have to wade back). So after the fun of that bit of foolishness, we were immediately rewarded for our efforts by coming across a small colony of gentoo penguins. They were adorable, quite frankly, and I was happily watching them waddling through their penguin lives, painstakingly building their nests out of stones and bits of tussock grass, but Woody had us keep going because if the conditions changed, we’d be sunk, and the main sight to see was the albatross colony, featuring over 100,000 black browed
albatrosses. (Albatrosses is the correct plural, but I kind of favour albatrice, so it's possible you might see that instead as this blog continues.) He was definitely correct on that one, because as sweet as the penguins were (and they were pretty sweet), the albatrosses were just astonishing. I’m not really as fussed about them as I
am about penguins, but no-one could fail to be impressed at the sheer numbers of the things nesting on the other side of Steeple Jason. To be able to turn your head as far as it can go one way and see them, and turn it all the way around and still be able to see them is just mind-boggling. Even as I’ve been describing this trip to people, and mentioning that we’ll see colonies of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of birds, I didn’t quite compute what that would look like – I was just parroting what I’d been told by the travel agent. To see them there in front of you... well, it’s given me a whole new appreciation for the humble albatrice, I have to say.