Antarctica » South Georgia Cruise Locations (including South Orkney Islands & Elephant Island)

South Georgia Cruise Locations (including South Orkney Islands & Elephant Island)

South Georgia is a stunningly beautiful location and one of the world's natural wonders. The island is a sanctuary offering remarkable concentrations of birds and other wildlife against a backdrop snow covered peaks, blue glacier ice and emerald green bays, all breath-taking sights.


Two mountain ranges, Allardyce and Salvesen, provide its spine, rising to 2,934 metres at Mount Paget's peak.

Huge glaciers, ice caps and snowfields cover about 75% of the island in the austral summer (November to January); in winter (July to September) a snow blanket reaches the sea.


South Georgia is home to some 30 million breeding birds including King and Macaroni Penguins, Light mantled and Sooty Albatrosses, thousands of huge Elephant and fierce Fur Seals, which breed on its beaches.


At Grytviken, once the hub of the South Atlantic whaling industry, King Penguins walk the streets and seals have taken over the ramshackle buildings.


During your time on South Georgia you can visit the Whaling History Museum and the grave of Ernest Shackleton.


The South Georgia cruise also visits Prion Island where there are breeding colonies of the huge Wandering Albatross and also Salisbury Plain to see the second largest King Penguin colony as well as Elephant Seals and seabirds.


Some of the landing sites you may visit during a cruise to South Georgia & South Orkney Islands:

South Georgia

Elsehul - Right Whale Bay - St. Andrews Bay - Cooper Bay - Gold Harbour - Grytviken - Ernest Shackletons grave - Salisbury Plain - Cape Rosa - Godthul - Shackleton Walk - Stromness - Fortuna Bay - Prion Island


South Orkney Islands

Orcadas Station


Elephant Island

South Georgia - 54° 15′ 0″ S, 36° 45′ 0″ W

South Georgia is a stunningly beautiful location and one of the world's natural wonders. The island is a sanctuary offering remarkable concentrations of birds and other wildlife against a backdrop snow covered peaks, blue glacier ice and emerald green bays, all breathtaking sights.


Elsehul - 54° 1′ 0″ S, 37° 59′ 0″ W

Elsehul is one of South Georgia's main breeding grounds for fur seals. During the November to March breeding season the beach is crowded with seals, including many aggressive males and cruising in a zodiac off shore is a great way to observe them.



Right Whale Bay - 54° 0′ 0″ S, 37° 41′ 0″ W

Right Whale Bays name dates back to at least 1922 and was named after the species of whale found in this area - South Georgia was famous for its whaling. Elephant Seals and a small colony of King Penguins monopolize the area from September through November, after which thousands of Fur Seals take over the beach through February.



St. Andrews Bay - 54° 26′ 0″ S, 36° 11′ 0″ W

St. Andrews Bay is a wide exposed bay at the southern end of the Allardyce Range. The fine dark sand beach runs north-south for 3 km. The wide glacial outwash plain behind the beach is ringed to the west by the Cook, Buxton and Heaney Glaciers. The retreat of the Cook Glacier has left a large lagoon at its snout, fringed by the original St. Andrews beach coastline which forms a long low sand bar breached by a deep, fast-flowing river.


Heaney and Buxton Glaciers also have melt water rivers whose course changes seasonally. The north end of the beach is sheltered by Clark Point and a shallow kelp-covered reef.

Wildlife to be seen include King Penguin, Light-mantled & Sooty Albatross, White-chinned petrel, Snowy sheathbill, Brown skua, Antarctic tern, Elephant seal and Fur seal.



Cooper Bay - 54° 48′ 0″ S, 35° 47′ 0″ W

Cooper Bay was discovered by a British expedition under James Cook in 1775. It was named for Lieutenant Robert Palliser Cooper, an officer aboard the Resolution. Cooper Island is South Georgia's only Special Protection Area and has a large number of sea birds including Snow Petrels, Antarctic Prions, Black-Browed Albatrosses, Chinstrap and Macaroni penguins.

Wildlife to be seen include Gentoo penguin, Macaroni penguin, Light-mantled sooty Albatross, southern giant petrel, white-chinned petrel, Wilson's storm-petrel, snowy sheathbill, kelp gull, brown skua, South Georgia pintail, South Georgia pipit, Antarctic tern, elephant seal and fur seal.



Gold Harbour - 54° 37′ 0″ S, 35° 56′ 0″ W

Gold Harbour got it's name because the sun's rays make the cliffs yellow with their light in the morning and evening. The Bertram Glacier at Gold Harbour was named by Filchner's 1911-1912 German expedition after General von Bertrab, Chief Quartermaster of the German General Staff.


This location is a breeding ground for penguins including king and gentoo penguins, elephant seals, sooty albatrosses, white-chinned petrel, blue-eyed shag, snowy sheathbill, kelp gull, brown skua, Antarctic tern, South Georgia pintail, elephant seal and fur seal.



Grytviken - 54° 16′ 53″ S, 36° 30′ 28″ W

Grytviken, which is Swedish for "The Pot Cove", is the principal settlement in the British territory of South Georgia. It was named by a 1902 Swedish surveyor who found old English try pots (used to remove and render the oil from blubber) at the site.


The settlement at Grytviken was established on November 16, 1904, by the Norwegian sea captain Carl Anton Larsen as a whaling station for his Compañía Argentina de Pesca (Argentine Fishing Company). Whaling was very successful with huge numbers being slaughtered.

The whale population in the seas around the island was substantially reduced over the following sixty years until the station closed in December 1966, by which time the whale stocks were so low that their continued exploitation was unviable.


Even now, the shore around Grytviken is littered with whale bones and the rusting remains of whale oil processing plants and abandoned whaling ships.


The South Georgia Museum is housed in the manager's house of the former whaling station, and is open during the summer tourist season.

The station's church is the only building which retains its original purpose, and is still used occasionally for services.


Grytviken is also famous as the final resting place of the famous Polar Explorer Ernest Shackleton. See below for more information.



Ernest Shackletons grave - 54° 17' 6" S, 36° 30' 26" W

Shackleton's most famous expedition set out from London on August 1, 1914, to reach the Weddell Sea on January 10, 1915, where the pack ice closed in on their ship, the Endurance. The ship was broken by the ice on October 27, 1915.


The 28 crew members managed to flee to Elephant Island, off Antarctica, bringing three small boats with them. All of them survived after Shackleton and five other men managed to reach the southern coast of South Georgia in the James Caird. They arrived at Cave Cove, and camped at Peggotty Bluff, from where they trekked to Stromness on the northeast coast.


From Grytviken, Shackleton organised a rescue operation to bring home the remaining men.


He again returned to Grytviken, but posthumously, in 1922. He had died unexpectedly from a heart attack at sea at the beginning of another Antarctic expedition, and his widow chose South Georgia as his final resting place. His grave is located south of Grytviken, alongside those of the whalers who died on the island.



Salisbury Plain - 54° 3′ 0″ S, 37° 21′ 0″ W

Salisbury Plain is a small plain lying between the mouths of Grace and Lucas glaciers on the north coast of South Georgia. It is best know as the breeding site of over 200,000 King Penguins.

You will have seen many photographs from this location with thousands of penguins grouped on the plains. It's an amazing sight.

Cape Rosa -
54° 11′ 0″ S, 37° 25′ 0″ W

Cape Rosa consists of a series of low bluffs extending out from the southern entrance of King Haakon Bay backed by extensive rock outcrops and scree slopes. Wave-cut platforms fringe the shoreline which is indented by a series of narrow inlets, of which ‘Cave Cove' is one of the most distinctive. Nestling on the cape's plateau area are a number of small lakes. The cove hosts a small cave on its eastern side.


Wildlife to be seen include Wandering Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Antarctic Prion, Blue Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Common diving Petrel, Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Brown Skua, Kelp Gull, Snowy Sheathbill, Antarctic Tern, South Georgia Pipit, Elephant Seal and Fur Seal.



Godthul - 54° 17′ 0″ S, 36° 18′ 0″ W

Godthul is a 3km long harbour between Cape George to the south and Long Point to the north. The head walls of a glacial cirque form a natural cliff amphitheatre which surrounds the harbour and extensive scree slopes rise to a skyline of 500m high jagged mountain ridges.


Nestling at the foot of the head wall are two lakes, ‘Echo Lake' and ‘Lake Aviemore'. The former lies at the head of the harbour and feeds a waterfall that plunges 30 m into a tidal pool. The latter lies a short distance inland above the landing beach.


Wildlife to be seen include Gentoo Penguin, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels,White-chinned Petrel, Kelp Gull, Brown Skua, Antarctic Tern, South Georgia Pintail, Snowy Sheathbill, Elephant Seal and Fur Seal.



Shackleton Walk -
54° 9' 5" S, 36°47' 17" W

The southern section of the western shore of Fortuna Bay is marked by a series of prominent scree ridges comprising sedimentary sandstone and shale. The two most conspicuous ridges lead up towards ‘Crean Lake' named after the Irish explorer Tom Crean. The pass lies at approximately 300m altitude.


Conspicuous folding in the rocks, typical of the Cumberland Formation, is visible in the cliffs at the head of Shackleton Valley and at the east entrance of Stromness Bay. Shackleton Valley is dominated by a braided gravel river bed.


Wildlife to be seen include Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Wilson's Storm-Petrel, South Georgia diving Petrel, Kelp Gull, Brown Skua, Elephant Seal and Fur Seal.



Stromness - 58° 57′ 36″ N, 3° 18′ 0″ W

Stromness is a former whaling station on the northern coast of South Georgia Island. In 1907 a "floating factory" was erected in Stromness Harbour. The land station was later built in 1912. The station operated as a whaling station from 1912 until 1931 and was then converted into a ship repair yard with a machine shop and a foundry.


The shipyard remained operational until 1961 when the site was abandoned. In 1916, Ernest Shackleton and a small crew landed on the unpopulated southern coast of South Georgia at King Haakon Bay after their incredible sea journey from Elephant Island in the James Caird.


Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley then trekked for 36 hours across South Georgia's mountainous and glaciated interior in an effort to reach the populated north of the island. They eventually arrived at Stromness to the home of the Norwegian whaling station's manager.




Fortuna Bay -
54° 7′ 0″ S, 36° 48′ 0″ W

Fortuna Bay was named after the whaling expedition led by C.A. Larsen which took part in establishing the first permanent whaling station at Grytviken, South Georgia, in 1904-05.


Here you'll find King Penguin, Gentoo Penguin, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, White-chinned Petrel, Snowy Sheathbill, Brown Skua, Antarctic Tern, Elephant Seal & Fur Seal. The bay itself is actually a 6km long fjord which leads up to the Konig Glacier.



Prion Island - 54° 1′ 0″ S, 37° 15′ 0″ W

Prion Island is home to the Wandering Albatross. Half of the island remains open to tourism, although several restrictions have been put in place to protect the birds. A boardwalk is being built on the island to make access easier and also to protect the fragile vegetation on the island.



South Orkney Islands - 60° 35′ 0″ S, 45° 30′ 0″ W

There may also be an opportunity to visit to Orcadas Station, an Argentinean base located in the South Orkney Islands. The friendly base personnel will show you their facilities and you can enjoy the wonderful views of the surrounding glaciers.



Orcadas Station - 60° 44′ 15″ S, 44° 44′ 19″ W

Orcadas Base is an Argentine base in Antarctica, and the first permanent base in the area defined by the Antarctic Treaty System. It is located on Laurie Island, one of the South Orkney Islands.



Elephant Island - 61° 8′ 0″ S, 55° 7′ 0″ W

The infamous Elephant Island where the the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and some of his men began their historic voyage to South Georgia in 1916.


Shackleton sailed off with five other men on an 800-mile (1,287 km) voyage in the open lifeboat James Caird on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, arriving at South Georgia almost two weeks later.


His second in command, John Robert Francis "Frank" Wild remained in charge of the 21 other men on Elephant Island for more than four months while Shackleton led attempts to return with a rescue ship.

There may be a chance to sail close to Elephant Island to get a glimpse of this formidable mass of rock rising from the ocean.







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