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Day 7- Drygalsky Fjord and Cooper Bay
We awake this morning passing through the forbidding cliffs of Dryglasky Fjord. These basalt lava formations formed on the sea floor during the Cretaceous period, oh about 150 million years ago. Quite a vista for an 0630 wake-up.
This begins the unique part of our trip--a high geologic focus. We learn this area the island is made of material from the original Gondwana continental plate margin, while the rest of South Georgia is sandstone and shale that eroded off the South American and African plate margins. These settled on the sea floor before they were uplifted and folded during the the mountain building of the Andes.
Our zodiacs land at Larsen Harbour for more wildlife and wild country.
Fur seals are all along the beach. This baby is very curious about our visit and mom soundly herds the baby away from us.
The mothers, baby and older male fur seals are fairly docile. Adolescent males, on the other hand, can be a real challenge. No, make that threat. We sometimes must make noise and charge toward them to make them back off. The big danger is getting bitten. Their mouths are full of bacteria, so a serious infection would follow. Not a good thing at the bottom of the world. These young males actually draw blood during their sparring.
Walking along the bay, we find a tiny sea jelly, a conidiophore, near the shore.
The geologists in our group are looking for specific rock formations--specifically ophiolites which represent oceanic crust that had been emplaced on land. Ophiolites have played a central role in plate tectonic theory. Here we see pressure dikes along with ophiolite throughout Bonner Beach.
Our landing ends with a hike up the south ridge.
Back to our ship, we head to Cooper Bay. On the way we encounter a humpback whale who seems as interested in us as we are in her.
She flips and rolls on her back, waving her fins.
And, of course, she dives a few times so we can get the iconic tail shots. How'd she know?
Our second landing today is at Albatross Cove in Cooper Bay. Here we find baby fur seals everywhere. They often hover together for safety while they wait for their mothers to return from the sea with food.
Fur seals and elephant seals seem to coexist well. Here they appear to be harmonizing--or maybe they're just telling us to get off their beach!
Walking up the hill from the beach we find a large colony of Macaroni penguins. Wonder how they got their name? The yellow feathers on their head are the key--they were named from a line in the song Yankee Doodle Dandy. Remember "stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni"? So now it makes sense. Well, kind of....
The nesting colony is a raucous seen. Birds everywhere are doing a wonderful mating song and dance extravaganza.
And some of the pairs are preening.
Fur seals are nestled in the grass right beside the penguin paths as we work our way down the steep hill from the Macaroni colony. These are not the aggressive adolescents, but we still have to be careful to not surprise them and to give them plenty of space because we just never know how they'll react.
In the grass and rocks at the beach we see nesting Giant Southern Petrels. If these birds look menacing, it’s because they are. They are one of the most aggressive, opportunistic predators around. They congregate with penguins and fur seals because they prey upon untended babies.
Walking along the beach, we get another show as the orange-beaked Gentoo penguins waddle around the fur and elephant seals on their way to an from the ocean.
Then they treat us to an up close March of the Penguins.
Tomorrow we head to Fortuna Bay--more great wildlife and our next penguin: a massive King Penguin colony.
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