Last week Tommy and I took off on Tuesday for a 3 1/2 day holiday to the Barff Peninsula specifically to go and see the Macaroni Penguin colony at Rookery. We were dropped off at Corral which is a beautiful little bay named that in the early 70′s as this was where some of the Reindeer were corraled to be transported off the Island to Chile. The experiment of taking them off the Island didn’t work and only one female survived the trip. The little hut there has a photocopy of the BAS hut book started in 1975 and it is a very good read. In those days the BAS scientists spent extended periods studying the birds etc on the Peninsula i.e. 7 weeks living in the hut and also hunting the Reindeer to bring fresh meat back to base.
We didn’t stay Corral side on tuesday we just put our boatsuits in the hut and took off up the valley behind which doesn’t have a name but is unofficially called Corral Valley.
The stream that splits in this valley with beautiful waterfalls and in the center a little hillock which we had lunch on the summit of on Thursday surveying the stunning views. The weather through out the trip was dingle it only clagged in on Friday morning when we were being picked up. So we continued up Corral Valley leaving three frozen lakes to the left at the top and headed over a col between Mills (625m) and O’Connor peaks before a steam descent into Rookery Bay in Martin Valley. Named in 1988 after Stephen J. Martin, British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Station Commander, Grytviken, 1980-82. He was the Base Commander when the Argentines invaded South Georgia in 1982.
A ways up from the beach is a Gentoo Colony which they have built on a ridgeline we commented many times on why they would put it so high as they do the commute to the water everyday.
The reindeer were based where our campsite was which is along the penguin highway.
To get out of the mud we put the tent up on a boulder that was well covered with moss and ussock. Tommy’s groin was hurting so I left him to his book, music and a bottle of port after setting up camp and headed around to the Mac colony. Unfortunately the Macs have not come back from sea yet so all that I saw was a large area on the hillside of feathers left over from last season.
All was not wasted as it was a stunning place for seabirds which were in abundance swirling around Rookery and Skua Point’s. Sheathbills, Giant Petrels, Sooty Albatross, Kelp Gulls, Skuas, burrowing Petrels were all nesting I throughly enjoyed the afternoon amoungst the tussock watching them in their daily lives.
We tried to summit O’Connor peak however, neither route we tried took got us to the top (one from the north east and one from the south east). After our first attempt we glissaded from our stopping point down a snow bank above Cobbler’s Cove. The three ridge lines leading to the peak are not passable a some point without ropes etc. The only way up I believe is from the Lake in Martin Valley straight up on the scree. I didn’t have the time to attempt it from this direction so had to make due with a smaller summit on the ridge line to the South of the actual peak. This gave some stunning views of Godthul, Reindeer Valley, Szielasko Ice Cap and Cobbler’s Cove. At 675 m it was mapped by a Norwegian Antarctic Expedition, 1927-28, and named Mount Bryde however, it was remapped in 1929 and named after Midshipman W. P. O’Connor, Royal Navy Reserve, who assisted with the survey.
We spent the afternoon checking out the area around Cobblers enjoying some time on the beach and wading out to the island at the entrance at low tide. A bit chilly! The island was absolutely teaming with fur seals and on the way back across from the Island a large elephant seal bull decided to block our way. As the tide was rising I gently suggested he moved out of the way which with a little bit of bubble blowing at me with his large nose he decided to do. Cobbler’s was charted and named Pleasant Cove by Discovery Investigations personnel in 1929, but that name is not known locally. The South Georgia Survey, 1951–52, reported that this feature is known to whalers and sealers as “Skomaker Hullet” (cobbler’s cove), because it was first entered in thick fog by a Norwegian gunner who had once been a cobbler. An English form of this name has been approved.
On the way back to Corral on thursday from Rookery we left early so the snow would still be firm making it easier to ascend to the col with large rucksacks. We were at the top of the Col by 10:30am so decided Mills peak looked like a stunning view point but not with large rucksacks so the gear was left at the bottom and only a small amount of kit taken up.
Mills peak was named in 1988 for Lieutenant Keith P. Mills, RM, commanding the Royal Marines platoon at King Edward Point at the outset of hostilities between the United Kingdom and Argentina, April 3, 1982. The peak really did have a great view. The fog was in on the ocean side as you can see from the picture. So after the quick summit we moved on down to the small unnamed peak in the middle of Corral Valley for lunch with a view of Nordenskol Glacier.
After getting back to the hut which was surrounded by reindeer there was time to bound up the peak without large rucksacks to the east of the hut. This gave commanding views of Reindeer Valley, Black Peak and in the distance covered by low lying cloud Godthul.
We ate dinner watching a tendril of fog come into Cumberland Bay East reminding me of San Francisco.
Friday morning before the rain came in we headed up the unnamed peak to the North of the hut. I was hoping for views north to Barff Point however, the rock got slippy as it started to rain and our pick up was coming sooner than we expected. We headed down to the beach again to get our boatsuits on and go back to base just as the weather really clagged in. When we stepped off the boats at KEP there were elephant seal weeners all over the place – amazing that in just a few days things change that much
So a great holiday with lots of wildlife and peaks. Most of the above pictures were taken by Tommy with the exception of the Sooty Albatross picture.