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South Georgia Travel

In April 1916, six men in a small, open lifeboat set out on a desperate journey. Their ship, the Endurance, sank after being crushed by ice, and its crew of 28 were stranded on Elephant Island in Antarctica with no hope of rescue. To save his men, Ernest Shackleton and five shipmates spent 15 days in that tiny boat, crossing 810 miles (1,300 kilometers) of the storm-tossed South Atlantic before finally landing on South Georgia Island. It was one of the most amazing and heroic feats of seamanship ever undertaken, and it had a happy ending —all of Shackleton’s crew were eventually rescued.

TravelQuest’s Antarctica, South Georgia & Falklands Total Solar Eclipse Expedition Cruise from Antarctica to South Georgia will be far more luxurious and rigor-free than the one experienced by Shackleton. On the all-new National Geographic Endurance, purpose-built for polar navigation, we’ll travel to South Georgia in a mere two days and then spend the following two days exploring this rugged island.

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Why Visit South Georgia?

South Georgia (and the neighboring South Sandwich Islands) are a remote and inhospitable set of islands. The nearest permanent settlement is on the Falkland Islands, nearly 875 miles (1,400 kilometers), to the west northwest. Visitors seeing South Georgia’s rugged, snow-capped mountaintops emerging from the storm-tossed South Atlantic might well conclude that they’ve arrived at the end of the world. So why would anyone choose to take a South Georgia Island vacation? Simple. Antarctic wildlife and breathtaking scenery, in a locale rarely visited by travelers.

This remote and rugged island teams with wildlife. South Georgia supports a variety of seabirds, including albatross, king penguins and penguins of various other species, plus petrels and prions, shags (a species of cormorant), skuas, and various gulls and terns. It’s a birder’s paradise! We’ll spend five days exploring South Georgia, with Zodiac landings to get up close and personal with part of a vast penguin colony, home to tens of thousands of king penguins. Seals and sea lions also frequent the island, and if we’re lucky, we’ll spot some of them on land as well. In the frigid waters surrounding the island, whales are often spotted.

South Georgia Island became a center for whaling operations in the South Atlantic during the early 20th century. Seven whaling stations were established, but with the end of the whaling industry, all were abandoned and have fallen into disrepair. Although the island now has no permanent residents, Grytviken, the largest of the seven whaling stations, has a few summer inhabitants who manage the South Georgia Museum and look after the Norwegian Lutheran Church. In its graveyard rests Ernest Shackleton (who died on South Georgia in early January, 1922), and weather conditions permitting, we’ll raise a toast at his gravesite.

Greeting king penguins on a beach on South Georgia Island. (Photo by Lindblad Expeditions)
Hiking on South Georgia Island. (Photo by Lindblad Expeditions)

TravelQuest’s South Georgia Island Visit

Our South Georgia Island vacation trip takes place aboard the 126-passenger National Geographic ship Endurance, a next-generation expedition ship purpose-built for polar navigation. Sailing from the tip of South America, we take in all the wonders of the Antarctic region during spectacular days at sea and in unforgettable adventures ashore. Some of those adventures will take place on and around South Georgia Island.

During our five days in the vicinity of South Georgia, we will have plenty of opportunities to explore some of the island and its surrounding waters. Key to this is Endurance’s fleet of 14 expedition landing craft. The 19-foot-long landing craft are powered by four-stroke outboard engines, can comfortably carry 10 to 12 people, and are widely recognized as the safest and most versatile small boats afloat. As there are no docking facilities on South Georgia, we’ll use these craft, weather permitting, to land at Grytviken and various remote sites to visit penguins, seals, and other wildlife.

For individual exploration during your South Georgia vacation, the Endurance is equipped with a large fleet of kayaks, ensuring everyone who wants to can paddle at every opportunity, conditions permitting. Prior kayaking experience isn’t necessary, and the ship’s custom-designed floating platform means kayaks can be deployed at any location—including far from shore. Kayakers are usually free to explore where they want within boundaries set by the undersea specialist and officer of the watch.

When not out exploring, we’ll be enjoying living in luxury on the Endurance. The ship’s 69 cabins face outward, with large windows or sliding glass doors that bring in the spectacular views and ample natural light. There is no assigned seating and our dining room accommodates the entire expedition community. The ship features two restaurants, and during meals, our expedition leader, naturalists, and any guest speakers aboard will join us. Public areas include an Observation Lounge with bar, a gym and wellness area, infinity-style outdoor hot tubs, library, main lounge (with full-service bar), state-of-the-art facilities for films, slideshows and presentations, and a photo workshop area. The ship has an “open bridge” policy, with comfortable spaces to sit and enjoy the view, and access to her captain and officers.

Two elephant seals in Gold Harbor on South Georgia Island. (Photo by Lindblad Expeditions)
National Geographic’s 126-passenger Endurance. (Photo by Lindblad Expeditions)
Zodiac landing in Gold Harbor on South Georgia Island. (Photo by Lindblad Expeditions)

South Georgia Island and TravelQuest

A South Georgia trip would not usually be on TravelQuest’s list of places to visit. But unusual circumstances take us there—a total eclipse of the Sun. On December 4, 2021, the Moon will hide the Sun for slightly less than two minutes. The narrow path, within which this stunning sight is visible [https://travelquesttours.com/blog/upcoming-solar-eclipses/], sweeps across the southern South Atlantic and over a portion of Antarctica. To see this amazing sight, TravelQuest has created a memorable journey: Antarctica, South Georgia & Falklands Total Solar Eclipse Expedition Cruise.

This cruise, aboard the 126-passenger Endurance, takes us to the Antarctic, South Georgia Island, and the Falkland Islands. Onboard will be TravelQuest’s astronomer-meteorologist, who’ll share insights throughout the cruise and stay in close contact with the captain as we pinpoint the best possible location for viewing the 90 second total solar eclipse at sea. By keeping sailing plans flexible, and taking advantage of real-time satellite images as well as hour-by-hour numerical models of the atmosphere, we will use the ship’s mobility to nearly double our chances of seeing the eclipse.

Our five-day visit to South Georgia Island will occur just prior to the total solar eclipse on December 4th. While other 2021 eclipse tours will also visit South Georgia, our stay is one of the longest, meaning we have plenty of time to discover the island’s breathtaking scenery and fascinating wildlife—including a vast colony that is home to tens of thousands of king penguins. And sailing on the luxurious Endurance, a next-generation expedition ship purpose-built for polar navigation, definitely has unmatched benefits and advantages.

King penguins take over a beach on South Georgia Island. (Photo by Lindblad Expeditions)

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