Europa entered the islands of South Georgia on Monday after an astonishing run from Elephant Island. We sailed all of it in a kind, steady 25-35 knots westerly to northwesterly, sometimes with a steep swell, averaging over 170 nautical miles every 24 hours.
Most often, ships head for the north/east coast of the main island (South Georgia itself) by going west of Bird Island. But between Bird Island and South Georgia lies Bird Sound.
If you can see if on Google Earth I have no doubt it looks narrow. On a chart it is even more alarming. At its narrowest the deep water channel is just 96m wide, less than twice Europa’s length. And at the shallowest, we had only 14m of water under the keel, with rocks all around us. We went through that channel under sail (with the engine on out of gear for safety). Qutie rightly, the crew are very proud of themselves.
Since then we have had two restful nights at anchor (no wind to speak of, no icebergs, protected from swell) in Elsehul and Rossita Harbour. Last night in particular was graced with a magnificent orange moon, bright stars and the chorus of fur seals on shore.
The landings have all been extraordinary too. A zodiac cruise in the rain introduced us to the endlessly-cute fur seal pups playing in the kelp forest and the mountaineering capacities of Macaroni penguins. Since then we have gorged on wildlife, all shades of green, milky fog and exquisite sunsets, glaciers and waterfalls.
There will be more details to come, but for now I think it is fair to say that all the crew, both permanent and voyage, are blown away by South Georgia. We have also been extraordinarily lucky with the weather; the place averages 300 rainy days a year. So far we have had two of the remaining 66 days for 2016.