OK, I’m going to miss out the exact technical details of how we escaped from the bog by the beach with the mad seal chorus. Suffice it to say it was an ‘interesting trip’ flavoured with inpenetratable fog banks, landings on remote beaches of grey glacial gravel and a final dash through narrow mountain passes to the relative security of the abandoned whaling station at Grytviken.
Just 20 miles of mountainous terrain and sea cliffs had separated us from the delights of the BAS research station at King Edward Point or our base ship on the south coast, but for the previous 2 days it might have been 2000 miles.
A bonus of our recovery to the research station was that I was able to briefly ‘phone my wife, Jane, on our wedding anniversary, Feb 14th, Valentines Day.
So, in curious juxtaposition to the recent meals of dried rations in the back of a 40 year old helicopter parked on a remote beach, I was celebrating (well, sort of) my 15th wedding anniversary, dining on a fabulous chicken pie with all butter rough puff pastry, prepared by Gerard Baker (the writer of most of ‘The Hairy Bikers’ recipes) washed down in friendly company with a very pleasant 2010 Chilcas Reserve Carmenere, in a mess dining room with mountain, sea and wildlife views from the windows so stunning you could hardly breathe. Truly the most fabulous “Restaurant at the End of the World”
The next day, despite low cloud and outbreaks of snow, we were able to get away to the south side of the Island, first crossing through the mountains via the curiously named ‘Echo Pass’,then climbing up the and over the Konig Glacier with its huge, dark striations making me think of a giant stairway to heaven.
We finally cleared the poor weather at Fortuna bay and made the south side of the Island, over the famous Shackleton Gap. The skies, in the fickle and sudden way I’m getting used to down here, became magically blue and clear. The mountain and rock formations around us were of such a harsh and powerful beauty that in my head a thundering Led Zeppelin inspired sound track sound track played. It was a mental musical accompaniment that I hoped would keep the Islands’ethereal sprites in check as we flew along. My imagination rang with a Kashmir kaleidoscope of music, mountains and magic.
We flew like returning warriors down the Gap to the ship in King Haakon bay that lay bathing in glorious sunshine, landing the 3 helicopters line abreast on the nearby beach and rejoined the ‘Team Rat’ after 5 days away, cut off on the north side of South Georgia.