ZOOM IN, and that speck becomes an island of rugged mountains, glaciers, and fjords. Despite its isolation, South Georgia is far from pristine. The island was a hub of whaling in the Southern Ocean until the middle of the last century. The unsustainable harvest of whales and Elephant and Fur Seals left the island’s wildlife devastated. However, decades have passed since the whalers left South Georgia and the wildlife has returned, in abundance.
On a few occasions over the past 10 years, I’ve had the opportunity to visit South Georgia as a naturalist and guide on small, expedition cruise ships. My formal training is in wildlife biology — birds, specifically — and I’ve got a particular admiration for the hardy creatures of the Southern Ocean. When the howling katabatic winds whip down from the glaciers at the head of each valley, sending us scurrying back to the ship in our zodiacs, the wildlife is, without exception, unmoved.
The images below show just a glimpse of South Georgia Island. Photographs can’t convey the sound (or smell) of 100,000 King Penguins, the curiosity of Fur Seal pups, or the adrenaline rush you feel as their territorial parent rushes out of the grass, feet away. For all of that, you’ll have to visit the place for yourself.