There was plenty more of South Georgia to come, not least the exotic Macaroni penguin. On leaving Grytviken we dropped anchor briefly at Cobbler’s Cove. Several crew took off on a there-and-back again hike to see a colony of Macaroni penguins, so named for their spray of yellow feathers. The eighteenth-century explorers who first saw them thought the headgear resembled a then-fashionable gentleman’s hat, an ensemble that now only lives on in the penguin. I didn’t go because it was a steep, fast hike; being a bit slow up hills I didn’t want to hold everyone up when the weather was beginning to look threatening. So this fantastic picture of the colony is taken by fellow voyage crew member Paul Cameron.
(Interestingly, the term macaroni was then used pejoratively to stigmatise its wearers as homosexual: the ‘dandies’ came into being as fashionable men who were deliberately being more ‘masculine’ than the perceived effeminates with their huge headgear.)
The rest of us visited Godthul instead, a thin beach strewn with the remains of whaling and sealing. I wrote a short piece about it on the blog at the time, about the bleached wood and stranded kelp lying on the stones. In the tussac grass boats lie, decaying to planks and nails, while rusting oil-drums are dotted about. The whalers used wire rope to move heavy things around, and strands still lie in the stream that runs down from the hills.
We climbed up beside and in the stream to meadows of mosses, grasses and lichens. Sadly, dandelions too which will prove harder to eradicate than the rats. Up here is a freshwater lake, beside which more metal drums remained, this time to store fresh water for the hunters camped here for the sealing season.
Stand-your-ground fur seals hid in the tussac, appearing to bark and rush at us, asserting their rights now the killers are gone. Gentoo penguins marched on the beach and an elephant seal watched lazily. Drizzle spat cold water down our necks and the peaks hid in the clouds. We had enjoyed such beautiful weather on South Georgia, but that day we weren’t sure how much longer it would last.