Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Ends of the Earth: The Rumors are True

South Georgia, it does have an Ends of the Earth feel to it.

Never mind that there is something of a tourist theme park at Grytviken. Never mind the way that western cultures have decided that what Antarctic environments really need is untrammeled bureaucracy, allowed to run wild and be free. There is nonetheless an inescapable air of Ultima Thule around South Georgia. The feeling that there is this place, and little more beyond it.

The scenery as you sail along the coast screams it out. Majestic peaks are executed in old-fashioned Kodachrome hues, courtesy of the Southern Hemisphere light and all the moisture that the wind has lifted off of the ocean, giving everything a slightly gauzy air that is the perfect reality antidote for a world gone mad on CGI. Meanwhile the water has been turquoise as often as not, the sky polarized blue, with vast icebergs or little bits of glacier debris floating here and there to add atmosphere.

The whole effect would be of soul-cleansing release, just the feeling that I used to get in the cathedrals of the Alaska Range, if it weren't for the metaphorical shoulder that the captain of a family ark might always be looking over, operating in a place like this. I'm having fun, but I feel like I'm too new here to relax completely.

And then! When you pull into an anchorage, the peaks are suddenly right overhead. And the beach is thronged with fur seal pups, cavorting in the water or snoozing in the sun. Giant elephant seals dream away their molt, stirring not a muscle as you walk by. Penguins line the beach, or perhaps you and the family hike over to a proper colony and stand a few meters away from the pecking, howling, shitting masses of them, doing their thing.

Images of the Garden of Eden start to come to mind.

All of which is to say that the rumors about this place, South Georgia, appear to be true. It's very very good here. And the anchorages, in terms of utilitarian protection from the elements, rather than images of the Garden of Eden, are pretty good too.

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