Two mountain ranges stretch 170 kilometres across the sea to make up this long, narrow island, in places as little as two kilometres across.
Even in mid-summer, 75% of South Georgia is covered with glaciers, ice-caps and snowfields. From 1786 until the early 20th century this was a scene of slaughter, with more than a million fur seals killed for their skins, but these days its wildlife has fully recovered and the island is arguably one of the world’s most magical and prolific wildlife hotspots, set against rugged and majestic scenery.
It is now home to more than three million fur seals and a host of birds: five million macaroni penguins strut along its shores, king penguins teeter over the shingle beaches of St Andrews Bay and albatross — comparable in size but with a four-metre wingspan — make their huge nests in the south. The wildlife has now taken over the decaying rusting hulks of the whaling station at Grytviken, the centre of the Southern Ocean whaling industry from 1904 to the mid 1960s. Shackleton’s grave in the whaler’s cemetery is well worth visiting as is the South Georgia Museum, with fascinating exhibits on the history and wildlife.