[My apologies for this post, Jordan forced me to compose it while mildly intoxicated] After leaving the Falklands we had an exciting two days at sea. Mostly, Jordan and I spent our time in bed, trying desperately not to get sick. [Side note here: we recommend the motion sickness patches, but they won't necessarily keep everyone from getting sick] After numerous, rousing talks from the staff about things like the basics of geology and what a Pinniped is (Spolier: Seals), we arrived early in the morning to South Georgia Island.
We had two landings planned for the days, neither of which ended up coming to fruition. There was extreme wind, preventing us from launching the zodiacs from the ship. We attempted to land at three different places in the morning and were repeatedly thwarted. We were afraid that the day would be totally lost, however, whilst eating lunch, we were saved. Our fourth attempt was Stromness Harbor and the weather had finally calmed enough for us to land. Stromness features an abandoned (and off limits) whaling station as well as a number of Gentoo penguin colonies. Jordan and I were among the last to go ashore and we were eager to do the long walk down a long valley that lead to a number of penguin colonies.
We walked with our guide out to some... less than spectacular colonies. On the return trip we started to encounter some very strong gusts of wind. At times we had to stop walking entirely and just focus on not getting blown over by the wind. Once we made it back to the shore, we donned our life jackets and got ready to board. Only about 30 expeditioners and 10 staff still remained on shore at this point. We eventually had to sit on the ground so that we didn't have to worry about getting blown over by the wind. As we started to get cold, the group huddled together to help maintain warmth.
It was then that the staff informed us that we just needed to wait a while on the shore, winds were too strong for the zodiacs to retrieve us. The winds continued to blow with extraordinary strength and we huddled closer and closer to our fellow expeditioners. After 1.5 hours of waiting, we were getting very, very cold. One of the staff members asked if we wanted to wait where we were, completely exposed to the elements, or if we wanted to seek shelter. Jordan and I voted for additional shelter, along with the majority of the group. Several people were wary of this because the whaling staton was off limits due to asbestos and was clearly the only shelter available.
We ventured into the off limits area, avoiding a preponderance of aggressive fur seals along the way. Our guide nestled us between two large steel tressels that sat on the beach. These provided some minor relief from the wind. We stayed here for nearly thirty minutes, all the while, an elphant seal bellowed in the distances, causing us to fear attack. In all honesty, this wasn't actually all that much better than just sitting on the beach, but the guides were reticent of bringing us into the delapidated buldings that used to be an actual whaling station. One guide went off to check on the validity of that option, they were insulated with asbestos, but the biggest concern was the safety of the actual structures.
After about 30 minutes sitting amongst the tressels, everyone was getting very cold (Jordan lost feeling below her knees). The guide came back, and we decided to move to the actual buildings that comprised the whaling station. A girl in front of me seemed hesitant and I reminded her that asbestos was not something to worry about, years and years of exposure are typically required for any kind of adverse side effects to take effect. The more real worry at hand was the possibility of hypothermia and frostbite. The group made our way into the structures and immediately the wind calmed. A zodiac from the ship radioed and told us to be ready as soon as possible for boarding.
Half the group returned to the shore without ever having made it entirely into the shelter we were seeking. The other half, waited anxiously for another zodiac. After about 15 minutes we were told that the zodiac was returning to pick up the last of us. We started back towards the shore, weaving between the aggressive seals, attempting not to provoke them.
Finally, we loaded into the zodiac and returned to our safe, warm boat after being stranded ashore for two and a half hours. Jordan and I immediately took showers, having been frozen to the bone. We plugged the drain in the shower so that our feet would soak in the hot shower water to warm. When we got out of the shower and pulled the drain plug, we realized that our feet had been so freezing cold that the hot shower water had turned cold from us standing in it. After everyone was safely back, we found out that the winds had actually gusted past 105 knots, or 120 miles per hour. This had actually maxed out what the instrumentation on the boat was capable of measuring, so it was actually a bit higher than that.
We learned just how quickly the weather on South G. could change.