Cumberland Bay, South Georgia

On Sun, Feb 8th, 2009,  I posted the following:

Welcome to Grytviken, South Georgia

Wanted: Once-in-a-lifetime South Georgia experience!

Those were the two headlines on our “Daily Program” and indeed it was as advertised. I was up early as usual for the sail-in which was under overcast skies, but that did not dampen my spirits. As we sailed past the northern part of the island there was at least one Tidal Glacier off our starboard beam (+15 miles). There were also other small icebergs, I say small because I have no point of comparison, on the horizon. As we approached our anchorage in Cumberland Bay, the water smoothed out to near glassy conditions. I was unaware of where we were until I heard the anchor chain let go. I looked up and there was the former Whaling Station of Grytviken, almost blending into the mountains behind it, in the early morning light. What a magnificent sight enveloped the bay. Peaks with hanging glaciers, vegetation covered hillsides and small grounded icebergs and burgee bits waiting for the afternoon tide to take them to sea. Along some of the coastline were, what I thought were large rounded rocks, but upon closer inspection with the glasses, turned out to be the rusting hulks of small boats. Along the shoreline was a teaser sight of what was to come when we went ashore that afternoon; Elephant Seals and King Penguins! The penguins were standing in their usual “social” formation along the beach just below and to the left of Shackleton’s Cross, as though they were hailing us to “come ashore and spend money”.

The headline “Once-in-a-lifetime”…. still keeps me remembering back to the day we went ashore on South Georgia, as it would be the final visit by a Holland America Ship to this fragile eco-system.  The powers that be have decided that after 2009, only those ships carrying no more that 500 souls could set anchor in these waters.  The following is quoted from  The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators:

“All ships must comply with applicable international marine legislation that applies to virtually all ships at sea, including compliance with fuel oil standards adopted within the International Maritime Organisation that require ships to burn lighter-grade fuels while in the Antarctic Treaty Area (the sea south of 60 South latitude). This requirement came into effect in mid-August 2011 and has required a number of the larger ships (cruise-only vessels, icebreakers, and expedition ships alike) to switch from burning heavy fuel oil to lighter-grade fuels, such as marine gas oil.

An additional regulation placed on the large cruise ships by IAATO and more recently the Antarctic Treaty Parties is that if the vessel is carrying more than 500 passengers on board, it is not allowed to land any passengers while in Antarctic waters. This means these operators are then cruise-only.”

So, there you have it. When we went ashore,only a limited number of people could be ashore at anyone time.  Approaching the landing we noticed a pallet of stores containing emergency rations that could be consumed by any landing parties that might be stranded by inclement weather.  We were also required to step into a shallow container of disinfectant to avoid bringing anything on shore that might harm the flora and fauna.

The attached are pictures that I was unable to share on my original blog.

Next: More stories of our times onboard the ms Prinsendam

2 thoughts on “Cumberland Bay, South Georgia

  1. Another interesting story—had never heard of this place. How fortunate you were to visit it “back then”. Have been gone for a week on the Disney Wonder w/Alan’s group. Keep ’em coming. 😉

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