No, I am not talking about that old southern state filled with southern charm, where most of the Civil War was fought and the mansions of “Gone with the Wind.” I’m talking about a chunk of the Andes that wandered into the southern Atlantic some 50 million years ago. The 100-mile spit of land is so isolated that it creates its own weather system, but despite—or perhaps because of—its ruggedness, it’s also a holy grail. It is located 1,300 miles east of Tierra del Fuego in the South Atlantic Ocean.
A quote from the Journal of Nick Sheehan, 9th October 1966 "We arrived at South Georgia on Sunday morning and sailed slowly up the short, wide fjord at the end of which, tucked into the corner of a secluded bay, lay the tiny settlement of Grytviken. The approach was one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen. The island was almost entirely snow covered, broken in patches with streaks of black as the more protruding of the rock ridges nosed a rough surface above the white. High mountains rose menacingly over the glaciers on the shoreline, their peaks lost in hazy clouds that were the only blot in a clear blue sky. The sun was low in the East and reflected its light off the rounded curves of snow and ice to produce a brilliant almost dazzling effect to the scene. The island was desolate and silent and wonderfully beautiful."
The type of people who visit this island are not there for the sun and sand; they come in order to see at first hand the beauty of the island and its abundant wildlife. Perhaps, some come for inspiration. As a result of reading the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's voyage to Antarctica, the musician Elvis Costello and his wife "ended up taking a holiday to South Georgia". Naturalists, historians and scientists come to further their research. Films are made about the wildlife on the Island, the Shackleton story or the history of the whaling and sealing periods. Adventurers come to sail, canoe, climb, ski and increasing numbers are coming to explore the relatively unknown, mountainous interior of the island.
There is no place to stay and you would just visit the island on day trips. Your only option would be on a cruise vessel; about 30 vessels visit each year, carrying about 2,000 passengers from all over the world. It is possible to charter a yacht from the Falkland Islands to organize an expedition with its own support vessel and special permits must be applied for.
There are two ports at Grytviken and King Edward Point (KEP). There is no connection to the outside world. It’s like the end of the earth, but for those who have visited this awe-inspiring place, their lives have been changed forever. Do your research on “South Georgia” – the images shown on the internet are beyond describable.
Author: Kathryn Hartwell
References: sgisland.gs, discoveramerica.com, and outsideonline.corn