South Georgia Expedition Log

Welcome to: Kayaking to Save the Albatross South Georgia Island Expedition. This is a personal log by kayaker Hayley Shephard who is attempting a World First Solo Sea Kayak around this isolated Sub-Antarctic Island.

25 March 2010 | Bound for Ushuaia
24 March 2010 | Falkland Islands
23 March 2010 | Stanley, Falkland Islands
21 March 2010 | Onboard the Prince Albert II
20 March 2010 | Onboard the Prince Albert II
19 March 2010 | Onboard the Prince Albert II
18 March 2010 | Grytviken
16 March 2010 | Cumberland East Bay
15 March 2010 | Ocean Harbour
14 March 2010 | Prince Olav Harbor
13 March 2010
13 March 2010
12 March 2010 | Craigie Point
11 March 2010 | SALISBURY PLAIN
11 March 2010 | Salisbury Plain.
10 March 2010
10 March 2010 | Rosita Harbour
09 March 2010 | Rosita Harbour
07 March 2010
06 March 2010

March 25th At sea

25 March 2010 | Bound for Ushuaia
March 25th At sea, bound for Ushuaia

Our final day at sea, the first leg of our journey home near completion and so far so good. Beth-Anne and I are stunned. What just took us one day and one night on the Prince Albert II, took us 6 and half days by sail boat, a little over a month ago, just in reverse. Have we mentioned our gratitude for this extremely convenient (and comfortable) way in getting to Ushuaia.
Alas it is the last day for buffet lunches that comes with a choice of 8 desserts, the final five course dinner with dishes so deliciously and artistically presented it feels destructive to eat it.
My bags are packed and having only eaten two weeks worth of food during the expedition they are still bulging at the seams and remain obnoxiously heavy.

This update will be the final one I send to Dean via sat phone, soon I will be in the land of Internet and telephones so I look forward to reading your comments, seeing Deans creative touches to my blog and being able to catch up with my family.

I pulled out pen and paper today and started to scribe a 'Things to do' list, already planning how to approach my reality of what awaits me back at home. I began to feel a little overwhelmed as my list grew but at the same time I sensed excitement when imagining the opportunities that also awaits.
When completely immersed in the planning and preparing of an expedition, it is easy to forget about the challenges that come afterwards. I will be coming home to a hefty debt that will need to be attacked immediately which will require me to start work as soon as I return, therefore a juggling act will be taking place. I'm eager to start writing my book which will entail research and time, there is a film to produce and presentations to create and begin showing. It is important for me, while the experiences are fresh, to start the process of turning this entire expedition, with all its unexpected hiccups into a story I have imagined telling for over 3 years. As I go through this process I am excited about the doors it may open and opportunities that may arise from my South Georgia journey that will live on although I am thousands of miles away from that paradise.

A golden hour in paradise
saturated in an amber light
and prospering in the incessant sounds
of curious critters in constant debate.

Mounds of tussock are crowned with Fur seals
and every pebbled beach is thronged by Kings.
Elephant seals dominate with their massive frames
as they loll about cooling their bodies with polar-chilled sand.

The ceaseless polar breeze, like an encore, exposes the jagged peaks
revealing the forbidden heart of this isolated sanctuary.
Soon to be tarnished by the succession of flurries,
these treasures are devoured by the clinging grasp of fog and cloud.

Valleys of glaciers carve their way seaward,
depositing ancient ice into the clumsy arms of the unforgiving sea.
Rivers run wild with snow melt as they unleash the silty sediments
offering freedom to the historical earth.

Like a time-lapse film the sky condenses seasons into a single moment.
A storm stored in sooty-like clouds
impose on the suns freedom
causing the contrast of bright and dark to stir my insides.

And within the skies embrace
the company of feathered friends fill the air with graceful strokes
as they brush past tops of ocean swell and sweep by sea stacks
that rise sheer and stark.

Here I sit overlooking the bay, freckled with islets that are
home for nesting Albatross.
The sun slithers low, descending behind shadows
of the surrounding guardian peaks, leaving a trail of golden light.

My heart flutters as an Albatross flies overhead and
goosebumps form on my covered skin as this provoking scene stands before me.
For a moment, the uncertainty of my return fills my mind
yet my heart beats with no boundaries and speaks the truth.

I will one day return to this forbidden land and
be embraced by the powerful arms of South Georgia once again.

March 24th A day with Albatross

24 March 2010 | Falkland Islands
March 24th Falkland Islands - A day with Albatross

For our final day of excursions the weather and the chosen locations could not have been better. The Falkland Islands offered us unusually balmy temperature, blue skies and the sun blazing all day. A typical 15-20 knot breeze blew which enabled the Blackbrowed Albatross to be out and about with their wings stretched and soaring.

Our mornings visit was to Saunders Island, the 4th largest island in the Falklands lying north west of West Falkland Island. The island is run as a sheep farm and has an area of 132 square km. I felt like I was in the tropics as I wandered from the landing site over the rise to a gorgeous half-moon shaped sandy beach. Penguins played in the surf duck-diving and squabbling at the waters edge. Gangs of Rockhopper penguins came back from sea and hopped their way up the rocks and cliff edges to their crowded nest site. Amongst the nesting Rockhoppers were also Cormorants, making do living alongside their rebellious neighbors. Rockhoppers have an attitude about them simply by the way they appear. Scarlet red eyes and donned with a streak of gold on their ear crests gives them a look of mischievousness.

It was the nesting Blackbrowed colony I was desperate to see, knowing that the chicks would be close to their fledging age. Both at Saunders and our afternoon landing on West Island offered us the chance to sit beside an Albatross and literally hang out for hours. Both nesting colonies required a walk along the privately owned farmland where sheep grazed. At times the walk was uphill and I realized how my cardiovascular fitness was rather poor. Sea kayaking doesn't aid you in that regard. Beth-Anne and I breathlessly paused, disguising our need to stop by taking photos, then continued on laughing at eachother for our boat-bound fitness levels.

You could tell we were getting close to a nesting sight because the wind increased as we made our way towards the coast that faces the prevailing winds. Albatross, like butterflies swarmed in the clear skies above making use of the steady 20 knot breeze. The swell broke violently along the rocky cliff bases and at times the Albatross rafted up on the waters surface in groups of 60+ utilizing a passing fish-ball. Occasionally we would hear a scuffle in the tussocks and notice that a lanky adult had just clumsily landed. It was now in search of its chick to unload the gullet-full of goodies. Once united, the chick would urgently and aggressively peck around the parents beak and you could see the adult trying to regurgitate the food on cue. The vocals had volume and the feeding would last only minutes. As abruptly as the adult arrived, it waddled to a clearing and took off directly into the wind. It really seemed as though the chicks were ready to leave home as they had out-grown their mud mound nests. Most had only patches of down remaining and during the afternoon every single one of them would take a moment to stretch its wings and flap them at a stand still as though limbering up for their first flight. It must be incredible to own such a set of wings and for an entire year be land-based. That first flight must feel sensational. I wonder if Albatross suffer from 'first flight' nerves?

During this day there were times when I sat completely alone with an Albatross only 3 meters from where I was perched. I was able to observe them for hours and capture it on film. I realized this Plan B for our journey home turned out to be the Best Plan EVER. Traveling to Ushuaia on the Prince Albert II granted us the opportunity to visit the outer Falkland Islands, only accessible by boat and to have this chance to spend a day with the Black Browed Albatross.

Strong winds are forecasted overnight and then expected to decrease for most of our full day at sea. Our ETA into Ushuaia will be in the early hours of March 26th. Wow - day by day, mile by mile, farewell after farewell, we truly are on our way home.

March 23

23 March 2010 | Stanley, Falkland Islands
March 23

Calm seas, glorious sunshine, blue skies - the first day of summer in the Falklands. But hang on, isn't it officially autumn/fall...the end of summer? Yep, so it seems, the Falkland Islands experienced their first day of summer today, all day. Ken Passerfield whom we met on our arrival into Stanley back in February said to me today, "Hayley if you tried paddling around the Falklands, you would not have got very far, the wind and rain and wind continued for most of February and well into March".
It was a glorious day, not only sunny but warm as well. It was strange to reveal our skin to the air and sun but it felt good and welcomed.

It was a productive day. I found a place to store the Quark-borrowed kayak with Sullivan shipping, the shipping agent whom Quark deals with. My personal Necky kayak, which I felt that it was far too soon in our relationship to be parting, was placed underneath the house of our new found friend Ken Passerfield. In fact it was rather weird to arrive at his house and discover that the only access to the under-world of his house was a small hole, which my kayak fitted through so precisely, it was eerie and uncanny, meant to be perhaps. It felt good to have the kayaks tucked away safe n sound, but unsettling to wonder when I would see MY kayak again. We met with Lin, Brian's wife and gave her a personal update of how Brian was doing. We heard from the Northanger and it sounds as though they have finally left South Georgia and are now underway towards the Falklands. This was good news for Lin. We were able to meet with Sally Poncet who has been working on the Albatross surveys on Prion and Albatross Island for the last 12 years. It was really worthwhile touching base and getting her perspective on the worldwide Albatross specie situation and engage in conversation which offered ideas for my approach with the documentary. I was able to squeeze in 45 minutes of lane swimming, after our inactive sea-days. It felt fantastic to stretch and work my body after having suddenly been completely inactive after kayaking. We popped into the Narrows and touched base with Chris, 'skyped' Dean back home as well as organized Ushuaia accommodation with our dear friend Alicia.

By 6.30 pm we were back on the ship getting ready for our Captains farewell cocktail and dinner party.
In amongst our thermal underwear and fleece garments, Beth-Anne and I did carry a sarong/dress for our pre-arranged days in Santiago with our old flight itinerary. Once showered and dressed we realised we did not have any shoes other than gumboots and hiking shoes to go with our feminine attire. I went into the walk-in closest and found our bathroom slippers thinking..."these will do nicely". We walked into the theater and our efforts were admired by most staff and passengers, however the head-waitress did not share the same opinion. We were soon whisked away and offered 'more suitable' footwear and soon blended in with the majority of passengers. It was another delicious meal onboard the Prince Albert II which we were very much grateful for.

I am excited about our days plan tomorrow. We are intending to land on Saunders Island in the morning followed by West Point Island in the afternoon. Both excursions offer opportunities to enjoy Rock-Hopper penguin rookeries and delight in the company of thousands of nesting Blackbrowed Albatross. I look forward to sharing with you our final day amongst the wildlife that surrounds these Southern Ocean islands. Abundant with unique species and dramatic scenery we are completely kept awe-inspired every step we take.

March 21st

21 March 2010 | Onboard the Prince Albert II
March 21st
On our 2nd day at sea Beth-Anne and I continue to appreciate our mode of transport as we steam forward into 40 knots of wind on our nose and current against us. Even in this vessel we have been pitching in steep, mountainous seas, emphasized by our cabin which is forward on the 7th deck.

I spent most of yesterday downloading video footage, putting together my presentation and catching up on journal entries and some sleep. My body alarm is still on early wake-up mode, I am wide away at 5.30am every single morning. I have woken up a few times, completely confused as to where I am and wondering "why on earth is it so darn quiet?".
How absolutely fantastic that I got completely used to the delightful animal sounds while camping on the soil of South Georgia.

This morning I did a presentation for the passengers. A 'hot off the press' first account of my 'Solo Sea Kayak Attempt of South Georgia Island' for the Albatross. Although it was rough out and the movement of the ship was rather significant, it was a good turn out and the presentation was well received.
I have come to realise that it is rather a good fit, spontaneously catching a ride back on the Prince Albert II, as the Prince Albert II foundation is very much involved with the 'Save the Albatross Campaign, amongst other environmental projects. I hope to learn more about what they are involved in once I am able to return to the land of 'Googling'.

Beth-Anne and I are preparing our short stop in Stanley. While the passengers will be seeing Stanley for the first time, we will be dashing about in search of a safe and friendly place to leave the two kayaks, for potential pick up in November. As well we have people to track down to sign 'appearance releases' and salt n vinegar chips to purchase, amongst other important things. We are bound to stop in and see Chris at our old local 'The Narrows' for a pint of guiness, cheesey chips and perhaps a Skype call to our loved ones. I am sure family will be relieved to hear our voices before heading to sea for the final day, bound for Ushuaia.

I spoke with Robin, the expedition leader onboard and I was delighted to hear that we will be spending an entire day doing two landings, one at a Black Browed Albatross colony! On the edge of a tussock cliff ledge, thousands and thousands of nesting Albatross perched on their solid mud basket like nests will be only meters away from where we stand to witness such a scene. I am so excited to have this fortune.

I finally found my tracker, it was lost in my luggage since leaving Grytviken. I have reset it so hopefully it is picking up our position and now tracking our progress, sorry for the delay with that.
Thanks everyone, I'll keep keeping you posted. Take care, H

Audio Blog

20 March 2010 | Onboard the Prince Albert II

March 18th/19th

19 March 2010 | Onboard the Prince Albert II
March 18th/19th
From my cabin onboard the Prince Albert II, Salisbury Plain is only a few hundred meters away and at 6.30am this morning we were on shore in an area I did not get to visit when I paddled here last week. It was an unexpected bonus to be here again and much was gained from our time ashore.

Dressed in our Kokatat paddling drysuits Beth-Anne and I stood out like Giant King penguins, however it was the practical attire we required. I spent nearly an hour wading in the surf trying to capture the Kings launching into the surf or what was more entertaining was them coming ashore, riding the hip-high breaking waves as they made for land. Salisbury Plain is the home for over 150 thousand nesting pairs of Kings Penguins and where we landed is the more population concentrated portion of the rookery. At this time of year it is not only one of the most popular landings to make, it is also the most muckiest. Again, another reason for wearing our drysuits. KOKATAT - Penguin proof, poo proof and waterproof!
Adults and nearly fledged one year olds, stood in muddy puddles, vocalizing to eachother in a chorus of trumpet tunes. If we looked closely amongst the crowds of Kings, some adults have eggs perched on their upper feet, under their brooding patch. As well in this active rookery newly born chicks not even a month hold were hidden beneath the adults, popping their heads out to receive the gift of regurgitated krill. They will remain here, on land for just under a year as they develop in size and waterproof feathering.

We boarded the Prince Albert II yesterday afternoon after a reluctant goodbye to Keri, Brian and Magnus. For Beth-Anne who had been onboard working with the Northanger crew full-time, it was like separating a kid from a candy store. We, as a team had bonded and it felt very strange to be departing with our mountain range of luggage, boarding another ship and letting go of the ties of a vessel and group of individuals who had experienced so much together.
Radio calls from the staff at KEP base came through with fond farewells and hopes to meet again. And finally once the kayaks were safely onboard it was time for Beth-Anne and I to face reality - to be taken to our 'owners suite' cabin on deck 7!!!!! The owners cabin!!!!! The fanciest cabin onboard this delightful ship!!! It has a walk-in wardrobe with dressing gowns for each of us, it has a three compartment bathroom with a bath, it has sky-lights above our beds so the southern cross can guide us into a restful sleep!!!! We, donned in our thermal underwear, outdoorsey-hair styles and bloated sports bags sheepishly moved on to the ship which will be our home for the next 8 days.

Before dinner during the scheduled recap and briefing, passengers were introduced to the new faces now seen about the ship. In the next day or two I will do a presentation onboard, telling the tale of the entire South Georgia Expedition Saga from start to finish. This will be a good opportunity to begin piecing together the story that I look forward to sharing with many others in the future.
After a deliciously divine '5 course' dinner we found ourselves immediately horizontal burying our heads in the fluffiest pillows and falling to sleep after exchanging comments and expressions of glee and appreciation for this opportunity to be homeward bound and in such comfort. The ship was soon lurching into offshore swell and Beth-Anne and I grinned as our stomachs, for once, did not blurch.

We have a single day of excursions here in South Georgia whilst onboard the Prince Albert II. This afternoon we will visit Prion Island. How incredibly fitting to have the opportunity to land again and be with the Wanderers before heading out to sea, bound for Stanley. More soon, it's time for us to dress and head to Prion Island.
Vessel Name: oceanmaid
Vessel Make/Model: Necky Looksha IV
Hailing Port: Ushuia Argentina
Crew: Hayley Shephard
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Who: Hayley Shephard
Port: Ushuia Argentina
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