S/Y "Sarah W. Vorwerk"
A SAILINGTRIP TO THE END OF THE WORLD
South Georgia has been described like "the Himalayas seen from Simla" as the mountains are a magnificent sight - especially in moonlight. It is the highest , most mountainous and second largest of the small number of islands, which encircle the Antarctic Continent. Two principal mountain chains effectively form the islands spine. The highest peak is Mount Paget (2.934 m), whilst twelve other peaks exceed 2000 m.
The highest peaks are concentrated around the middle section of the crescent shaped island mainly, where they provide a substantial barrier against the severe weather which reaches the south-west side of the island with the prevailing winds. The area in the lee has a comparatively less severe climate. South Georgia is 106 miles long and one to nineteen miles wide and reached from the Falkland Islands, within five to six sailing days. The coast consists mainly of high sea cliffs which are interrupted by many fjords and glaciers. The fjords provide a variety of harbours and anchorages, some deep and clear, others with sunken rocks and reefs, many of them have glaciers at their heads. Glacier snouts, which reach the ocean or waters of the bays and fjords, can be very spectacular - especially when enormous pieces break off and crash into the water (a process, termed calving). Bergy bits, growlers and brash ice infest many bays, mainly during early summer. Permanent snow begins at 200 m on the exposed south-west side and 400 m on the protected north-east side. The mountains are dissected by large numbers of deep fjords, most of which contain glaciers. Fifty percent of South Georgia is covered by glaciers. Some floating glacier fronts may be up to 50 m high, 250 m deep and over one km wide. There are over two dozen lakes on the island. Several of them have been formed, where glaciers have dammed valleys. Gulbrandsen Lake, near Husvik, is the largest and most spectacular of these with icebergs floating in it and a series of over twelve major terraces on its shores (representing previous lake levels). Ponds, pools and tarns are common throughout the island. Another distinctive ground feature is found near many flatter areas on the coast behind beaches .- Elephant seal wallows. Caused by the seals lying closely packed, in mud during their moulting periods (February, March). The wallows are often one m deep and become exceedingly foetid with skin, fur, faeces, combined with thin mud and the occasional dead seal.
There are millions of breeding seals and penguins: 3 million Macaroni Penguins, 1 million Fur Seals, 360.00 Elephant seals, 400.000 Gentoo Penguins, 300.000 King Penguins (of which 100.000 at St. Andrews Bay). Also a vast number of breeding Albatross (Wandering) is to be seen.
Until the middle of this century, South Georgia was a centre for the whaling industries. During the last century a couple of whaling stations had been established. The last one was abandoned in 1965. Grytviken was the main settlement with church and cinema. The ruins have been reoccupied by the seals. The church has been saved and restored, the cinema fell into shambles in 1996.
South Georgia is English territory and was declared a nature reserve. It is administered by the Falkland Dependency Administration and counts two research and one administrative settlement (clearance and post office).