Black Tie Optional

We had our first landing today at a penguin rookery at Salisbury Plain on South Georgia Island.  The weather was a balmy 39 degrees (heat wave back home!) with a stiff wind.

We are part of the Endurance group (they divide all of the passengers into two groups since only 100 people can be on land at a time) so we didn’t have to be ready until 9:30.  Tomorrow, we switch and have to go for the first landing at 7:00.  AM.  So much for sleeping in on vacation…

Getting ready to go is complicated.  First you have to get dressed.  I wore yoga pants, smartwool socks, a tank top, long underwear, a fleece jacket, a scarf, earmuffs, and a hat.  Then you have to put on your waterproof pants, your jacket, the life vest, the camera backpack, and carry your boots to the “ready room” (which just happens to be in a bar … coincidence?).  Then you put on your boots, wash them in a disinfectant, climb into a zodiac and get ready for your arrival on land.  If I look fat in this picture, it’s because I’ve been eating a ton and has nothing to do with the number of layers I am wearing.

Once you get to land, you jump out of the Zodiac into about a foot of water (thus the large waterproof boots) and wander up the beach.

Well, you can’t exactly wander.  Something about Fur seals marking their territory and our fearless leaders forging a path by scaring them away by banging sticks together and then marking the path with flags.

We saw these very cute young fur seals playing.

Then we noticed this river.

Then we noticed this seal coming out of the river

And we wondered why it looked like he was coated in oil.  Nope, that’s not oil.  That’s an entire river of penguin poop. There are no words to describe the smell.  Actually, I can think of a few:  Horrific, powerful, overwhelming, (insert inappropriate language here) and the worst part is that it stays with you.  I still smell it.  And we are back in the safety of the ship!

The penguins are cute.  And they are everywhere.  Some 80,000 of them to be exact.

Not to be outdone, the gentlemen pulled out their formal attire.  And strutted their stuff, penguin style.

Then the surf started to pick-up so we rushed back to the landing site, washed our boots in the surf, climbed back into the zodiac, rode back to the boat, scrubbed our boots, disinfected our boots, took our boots off, went back into the ready room for hot chocolate, then carried the whole kit and caboodle (is this a real word?) back to our cabin.

Later on, we took a zodiac tour around the bay.  Which is even colder because a. you are on the water which is COLD and b. no physical activity for an hour.  Just a boat tour.

It was kinda like our boat tours on the lake back home.  Except, instead of looking into people’s houses, we are peering into bird nests.  Same invasion of privacy, right?

This fur seal has been fighting (evidenced by the blood on his chest) and defending his territory.

Later tonight, we are going to sing Christmas carols, light an electric candle, and go to bed early.  Tomorrow, we are going to venture into town.  Yep, there is a town here.  They even have a souvenir shop.  I tried to be funny and ask the expedition leader if there were going to be any shops on South Georgia.  And of course, it turns out I wasn’t funny because there actually are shops.  And a post office.  Maybe even wifi.

I wish you were all here.  Christmas sucks less when you aren’t bombarded by it.  And you can even forget it’s happening.  Well, until the Christmas carols start again.

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