Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Xplore in So Georgia Island: 17 Nov. 2008

A perfect day! We awoke to bright sunshine, Xplore swinging at anchor in a glassy calm Elesehul with petrels and gulls circling and seals playing in the water around the boat. With the anchor up we motored out past a sparkling glacier on Snowy Peak (2800m) and past Cape North to check out the icebergs around the Welcome Islands. The fearless Captain Steve took Xplore to within spitting distance of the biggest berg in the bay, which promptly calved with an ear-splitting crack like a cannon, and shed a huge berggy bit into the water right next to the boat, accompanied by sharp waves that rocked Xplore. It was a perfect photo opportunity as the berg sparkled in the sunshine and the turquoise glacial water splashed around its base. How Captain Steve managed to stage such a show is beyond our understanding - just one more superhuman feat from our fearless leader. Next was a visit to the Welcome Islands that are literally covered with penguins, who seem to be able to climb sheer cliffs to take up residence on the grassy slopes of the table top. They were as curious about us as we were about them, standing to attention like tin soldiers facing the drill sergeant It was positively tropical as we arrived at Prion Island. This was a special treat. The island is rat-free and therefore represents South Georgia as it was before the whalers brought rodents, which prey on bird eggs and have decimated the resident population of ground nesting and burrowing birds. Since the island is rat-free and everyone wants to keep it that way, only one boat a day can visit and visitor numbers are limited to 11. Luckily the permitted boat that day could not go so we were first alternate. Each passenger had to read and sign an affidavit that they would vacuum out the backpack, pick the fluff off their velcro, check their pockets for rats and cockroaches, seal their snacks in transparent sterile bags and wash their boots in antiseptic to stop not only rodents but insects, plant seeds and even viruses from infecting this special habitat. The island was pristine. Such unspoiled bird habitat with many ground nesting albatross, petrels and a lovely little songbird called a pipit which is no bigger than a sparrow and is only found in South Georgia Island. Its song filled the air in an environment usually devoid of birdsong and dominated by the smell and the sound of larger mammals. 'Happy hour' was worth celebrating after a day like this. The sun still shone as we dropped anchor under clear blue skies in Rostia Harbor, where Captain Steve had already amputated BahBahra's hind quarter for a mutton dinner. (BahBahra is the stiff tied to the stern stanchions -- an ex-Falklands sheep). Too much wine and merriment led to dancing in the cockpit as we all listened to rhythmic Portuguese music from Maria's Ipod played at 100 watts into the moonlight. The skies were so clear that shooting stars, planets and the Milky Way itself watched over us as the tempo rose and danced past the midnight hour, to close out the perfect day on Xplore. Kristy Kissinger Totten deserves special mention for motivating everyone to move their hips in ways that have not been seen since adolescence. Captain Steve got a gold star for his performance -- sticky gold stars being awarded at the end of each day by StandyUppy John for those crew and clients demonstrating some yet undefined quality meeting the stringent criteria of the secret Star Committee. As we entered the morning, we left the stars to keep watch over the glassy calm of the bay and granted the sleeping animals some well earned peace and quite. Folks - its doesn't get any better that this. Ever!

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