Thursday, March 16, 2017

Godthul, S. Georgia and the Carpet of Bones

Godthul, S. Georgia with the Ortelius in the bay
     After a morning at Gold Harbour in the wind and snow, our afternoon landing at Godthul was completely clear and sunny.  Unfortunately, it was also laced with sad shadows of the past, much like Elsehul, earlier described.  When I stepped out of the zodiac, it was onto a carpet of bones.  Whale bones. 
   During the briefing about the landing, the staff advised that we needed to avoid the rusty metal container on one end of the beach, as it included some unexploded dynamite.  Apparently, they used to put dynamite in the bay and blow up the whales.  There were lots of rusty old barrels left near the metal container, which were used for whale blubber/oil.  Whales were processed here after death, and the bay was filled with their bodies.  In the early days, the blubber was stripped off, but there was no use of the meat or the rest of the whale.  Slaughter and waste.  They were simply left to decay.  Over time, the bones lined the beach, and while they would wash out to sea, they contained oil and would float, and end up back on the beach.  So in 2015, at least 45 years after all whaling supposedly ceased in S. Georgia, there was still a carpet of bones.   
The metal container is in the background
     The little bay is supposedly a  mile across, and looked peaceful in the sun.  There was no sign of marine life other than a few fur seals and a few elephant seals on the beach.  I tried to imagine living whales in this setting.  To have such a beautiful place bear witness to such disgusting whale massacres was hard to imagine. 
     Standing on, and walking around in, the bones was exceedingly creepy to me.  I had the same my-skin-is-crawling feeling all the time that I had at Elsehul, and as a result I found it difficult to enjoy this landing, despite the fact there was some wildlife.  Another challenge was the beach is quite small and was therefore quite crowded, so I could not go anywhere without other people, unlike most landings. 
An innocent elephant seal pup surrounded by whale bones
   Of course, seals were killed here too, and once again, looking at the adorable elephant seal pups, the large males that I found so charming with their giant noses and deep bellows, I could not imagine killing these creatures. 
     I could not look anywhere and not see bones.  I walked a little ways up into the tussock grass, which was hard to walk on.  Fur seals seemed to enjoy sleeping on tussocks, lazily barking if approached.
     There was a small colony of Gentoo penguins, some of which already had eggs which would hatch in a few months.
     I found this landing too depressing and too crowded to enjoy.  It was staggering to me that once again, man had left his trash behind when he had finished decimating the wildlife.  It was hard to imagine - after all these years no one had cleaned up after them either.  Permanent litter, at the far end of the earth.  Disgusting.

A fur seal on a tussock
A trio of weaner pups, amid bones of murdered whales

A Gentoo egg

A mated pair of Gentoos peers into their nest

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