Over the hills and far away. / by Jerry

2nd December

An absolutely gloriously sunny day and I had the good fortune to be invited out by Ella, the KEP boating officer who I met back in Cambridge, as she was showing Chris, here to run the museum, a great day-walk out over the mountains.

The terrain and landscape felt so much different from Bird Island. There when I go uphill it's almost all through tussac and mud, with seals hiding in the gaps. Here it was across scree slopes and up soft snow fields. None of them are easy walking but it's nice to have the variety. 

The views were just stunning; clear blue skies over turquoise waters, bisected by mountain ranges that, although not huge by the standards of continental ones, look as impressive and daunting as anywhere in the world. I've heard South Georgia described as a slice of the Alps chopped off and dumped in the ocean and that sounds pretty accurate to me.

As we sat eating our lunch beside a Papua Lake Ella was able to point out one of the glaciers in the distance and the alarming amount it has retreated in the last ten years. Recent enough that many of the maps still in use here are inaccurate for that area.

Near the lake we were berated by Terns, while on top of the ridges we had a few pristine Snow Petrels fly past us, but the place felt so quiet compared to Bird Island where Geeps whine and albatross mutter while there's a constant background throb and wail of Macaronis and seals.

It felt a priviledge to see such a place on such a day and, happy and sunburnt, I went out after dinner to watch the young Elephant Seals. It's been so nice to see so many little weiners; freshly moulted pups sleeping all over the shore, often lying alongside their buddies. The most fun to be had though is in watching the young ones play fighting in the shallows – raising themselves up then slamming into each others necks before one looks too far up, gets distracted by the sky and is then surprised by its combatant. It's a playful recreation of the brutal fights the males get themselves into when establishing dominance over a harem of females, except those guys stand taller than me and can do some real damage.