Erik Edvardsson's South Georgia
On many twenty-year-old Swedes’ bucket lists you will find a backpacking trip to Southeast Asia. Erik Edvardsson had something completely different on his list. He dreamed of an island in the middle of the Southern Ocean, and island that is believed to have more wildlife per square metre than any other place on the planet – South Georgia. In 2008, his dream came true and already two years later he returned. Here he shares his experiences of this paradise for wildlife lovers.
What made you want to travel to South Georgia?
I've probably dreamed of South Georgia since I saw BBC's "Life in the Freezer" for the first time, but I never thought I'd get there. This cold, windy island, located far out in the ocean and days from nearest country. A place where you find unique and fascinating wildlife, surrounded by dramatic mountains and magnificent views. When I started to think of a trip to Antarctica, I wanted to find a trip that also included South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
You visited South Georgia twice in two years, why did you choose to go back?
During my first trip, South Georgia definitely became a favourite, actually more than Antarctica, and I didn’t feel that I was done with this island. I wanted to see more of it and stay longer at some sites. As a photographer, a second visit means that you have better chances to take great pictures as you know the sites, the animals and have plenty of time. We were also able to make landings at dawn, take walks and really immerse ourselves in the nature of the island and its unique history. I hope I will be able to make a third visit sometime.
What is your best memory from South Georgia?
Oh, it is difficult to choose just one, but I will never forget the first time we went ashore. How incredibly many animals there were, how curious they were, the unbelievable size of the elephant seals and the beautiful surroundings. But the strongest memory is probably when I sat in the middle of the huge penguin colony at St. Andrews Bay, alone in light snowfall, and just enjoyed the wildlife show around me.
Below, Erik shows some of his best pictures from South Georgia and tells you more about the amazing wildlife.
The king penguin is the most numerous penguin species on the beaches of South Georgia as many of the other species breed in the grass further up the hills. The largest colonies exceed 100,000 birds and daytime the brown chicks dominate the scenery, but every chick has two parents who, by listening to their call, succeed to find their chick in the swarm.
The key to the impressive wildlife in South Georgia is the rich ocean surrounding the island. It is cold, nutritious, ice-free all year and produces food for millions of seals, birds and whales. The picture shows a group of king penguins on their way out of the water, probably full of food for their chicks.
There are many extreme facts about the southern elephant seal, the world's largest seal. Amongst other things, they have the largest size difference between the sexes of all mammals. A male can weigh over 4 tons, which is about 10 times as much as a female, and the biggest males can have harems consisting of up to 200 females!
The amount of animals on the beaches of Gold Harbour is amazing. It is quite jam-packed with fur seals, elephant seals, penguins and other birds. The concentration of animals per square meter is greater on the beaches of South Georgia than on the African savannah!
The wandering albatross is one of the world's largest flying birds and the one with the largest wingspan, measuring up to 3.5 meters. They fly huge distances in the Southern Ocean and can stay at sea for several years, but always return to land to breed. It takes more than a year in the nest to make an albatross chick fully fledged. This means that it must be strong enough to sit and wait for food even in the coldest winter storms.
A bit up the mountain slopes, above the shore, it is fairly calmer. But there is plenty of life here too. The majority of the island's seabirds breed in the tussock grass. The gray-headed albatross is one of four albatross species on the island, and probably the most beautiful of them all. They mate for life, but are still keen about the courtship for each mating season.
The high concentration of animals results in plenty of carcasses. South Georgia's vulture is the giant petrel. They are big, powerful birds capable of killing smaller prey, but mainly live on eating dead animals.