Fortuna to Stromness (Spanish to Norwegian in 30 minutes?)



  • Wake up early to repeat the final 4 mile leg of Shackleton’s hike into Stromness Whaling Stationm – CANCELLED
  • Zodiac Landing in Fortuna Bay instead…even better!
  • Zodiac Landing for short, medium, or long hikes back-tracking Shackleton’s approach to Stromness
  • Pick up BBC and National Geographic team for dinner

Today began as a bust and I think it weighed heavily on a few people after 3 failed attempts at getting on shore at Salisbury Plain. When the news of the Shackleton walk being canceled due to too much ice being on the trail came over the intercom, it was a sad beginning to the day. We were then told we would take zodiacs to shore in Fortuna Bay where we were anchored. It sounded like it was going to be a bust too. Boy was I wrong!

We arrived on shore to a large harem of Elephant Seals and a big colony of King Penguins. On top of that there was fresh snow on the ground which made for some very cool photography!

Biggest wusses on the planet - everyone is afraid of jumping in the water first...first to be eaten.
Biggest wusses on the planet - everyone is afraid of jumping in the water first...first to be eaten.

I’m saving most of the photos from this landing for when I get back – sorry. Here’s what this bull elephant seal thinks of that notion:

These guys make so much noise.  They snore while they're asleep and burp when they're awake.
These guys make so much noise. They snore while they

I handed my camera to one of my photographer ship mates while I was standing in the middle of a glacial pond. I was shooting King Penguins in the waters reflection when she came walking by and I remembered Mom wanted a photo. It is hard to see in this small of an image, but that is a King Penguin and Bull Elephant Seal behind me.

For Mom
For Mom

I could have spent the whole day in Fortuna Bay. During lunch we set sail for Stromness. Stromness was the place Shackleton came to for final salvation. It is now a ruined whaling station and home to two Elephant Seal harems. I have always wanted to visit Stromness, for historical reasons, to pay more homage to “the boss” (not Springsteen down here – Shackleton).

I was actually pretty beat from chasing King Penguins around Fortuna, but opted-in for the medium walk (about a mile each way) up to a Gentoo Penguin colony. The Gentoos were very busy building nests and with the abundance of grass and rocks around this colony they didn’t have to steal nest supplies from one another too often. It was also snowing, and I have some decent shots of Gentoos building nests with snow falling around them.

In my usual manner, I walked away from the group to explore. I have a tendency to do that when armed with a camera. Of course, we were allowed to run free in the fields and hills beyond the asbestos-ridden whaling station. I stumbled upon another Gentoo colony around a pond and sat there to watch the birds leisurely swim in the crystal clear pond. They are super fast and agile in the water. I didn’t take any pictures because I was so mesmerized by the scene under the water. I sat on the edge of the pond and these penguins just swam up to me, poked their heads up to cruise on the surface, then went back to being torpedoes.

Gentoo Torpedo...errrr...Penguin
Gentoo Torpedo...errrr...Penguin

At one point two Skuas came down for a wash and I got some great sequence shots of that. One of those shots is my current number 1 pick for an entry to a photo contest on S2Ki this month. I then hiked up a rocky cliff to sneak up on some reindeer, but just couldn’t get in range.

When we got back to the ship crew from the BBC and Paul Nicklin from National Geographic were on board. The BBC is filming another series on Antarctica that should be out in 2012 and National Geographic is doing a story on Elephant Seals that should be out in 6 to 10 months. We got to hear a little bit about their experiences before dinner. The storm we came down in almost flipped their boat over while it was anchored in a bay! That should give you a small idea of the mess we came through to get here.

The engines are being cranked up right now to head to the Southern-most parts of South Georgia. Woo-hoo icebergs!


  1. mom says:

    Thanks Alex or whomever that took the shot!! Sounds like you are having a blast.
    Late here and I thought I would see if you had posted an update. Fun as usual.
    LU. -Mom

  2. Jeff Kershner says:

    Alex, It’s been great to read each and every update. Photos are excellent!! I know you’re having the time of your life.

  3. Andy Wright says:

    Looks like a beautiful place. Great photos!

  4. Dionne says:

    That elephant seal looks fierce! He must have lots of penguins in his belly. I hope he doesn’t eat you, because I’m looking forward to more pics. Have you gotten a pic of the gray Albatross that you were hoping to photograph?

  5. Dave (nfrs2000nyc) says:

    Your trip has made me scrap absolutely all my vacation plans for 2009, and I am not in the process of booking one of these to the Galapagos Islands for myself. This blog, especially the Antarctica part is amazing!

  6. Cathy says:

    What beauty…I save one of your photos as my background each day. Keep them comming. Neat picture of you and your Artic hosts.


  7. Audrey says:

    Wonderful photos and storytelling … it is great following your trip from afar (and from the warmth of a heated room!)

  8. axspot says:

    Sorry for not posting yesterday. I was too beat to do anything other than grab some Z’s and dream about getting mauled by Elephant Seals. 4 tons of blubber coming at you can leave some lasting impressions. Dionne – they eat squid mostly, but not a whole lot is really known about their habits at sea. They’re on shore to breed, give birth, mate, perform dirty elephant seal harem theft, fight, burp, make fart noises, stink, and do all those wonderful things these behemoths do. They are fun to watch right now because there is so much action going on. Being around thousands of them at Gold Coast was nuts. I can’t tell you how many times I had to run to get out of the way of one of the bulls. They’re not after us, they’re just trying to run away from a beating from the dominant male. I’ll explain later and show some photographs of the fighting. I even got to see the birth of an elephant seal pup today – that was pretty nasty, but I took lots of pictures!

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