A four-man Australian kayak team has smashed the record for the fastest kayak circumnavigation of South Georgia. They completed the approximately 570 km long journey in just thirteen days.

Situated in the furious fifties, a latitude shared only with Cape Horn, South Georgia is one of the most dramatic landscapes and wildlife havens on the planet. A team of four Australians John Jacoby, Chris Porter, Andrew Maffett and Jim Bucirde made it their goal to circumnavigate this hostile and beautiful island in their sea-kayaks.

The team at the beginning of the trip in Grytviken (Photo: South Georgia Island Circumnavigators)
The team at the beginning of the trip in Grytviken (Photo: South Georgia Island Circumnavigators)

After a rough sailing from the Falkland Islands they arrived at Grytviken, South Georgia, aboard their support yacht Pelagic on 2 February 2015.  Their four kayaks had been dropped off by a cruise ship a few weeks earlier. The team then spent one day for further preparations and launched their kayaks. They started their circumnavigation in stormy weather, paddling just 5 km on their first day before going ashore to camp, but finally underway.

However, they had to start their adventure with paddles borrowed in the Falkland Islands since their own ones had not arrived with them as planned. When the paddles were located they were loaded onto a cruise ship that met the adventurers four days later in the Bay of Isles. Reunited with their paddles the four Australians rounded the northern tip of the island on 8 February. They covered 55 km that day. This was followed by a 70 km paddle the next day, which took them a good way down the exposed south coast. The South coast of South Georgia has a fierce reputation for huge swells and ferocious winds. Some of the gusts they encountered reached 90 km/h and wind chill temperatures dropped sometimes to -10°C. A harsh and unforgiving environment for four small kayaks.

The second campsite at Bjelland Bay where they were stopped by strong winds with wind gusts ripping the sea chop into sheets of smoking spray (Photo: South Georgia Island Circumnavigators)
The second campsite at Bjelland Bay where they were stopped by strong winds with wind gusts ripping the sea chop into sheets of smoking spray (Photo: South Georgia Island Circumnavigators)

Once they rounded the south-eastern end of the island the worst was behind them and they allowed themselves some time watching the penguins at St Andrews Bay, a beach that is home to an estimated 200,000 king penguin pairs. Their last camp of the trip was in Cobblers Cove. Next day, on 15 February, 13 days after setting off from Grytviken they successfully finished their circumnavigation, most appropriately again in winds.

Kayaking along South Georgia beaches teaming with wildlife (Photo: South Georgia Island Circumnavigators)
Kayaking along South Georgia beaches teaming with wildlife (Photo: South Georgia Island Circumnavigators)
Ducloz Head on the south coast with friendly Elephant Seals (Photo: South Georgia Island Circumnavigators)
Ducloz Head on the south coast with friendly Elephant Seals (Photo: South Georgia Island Circumnavigators)

Despite denying that it was their intention to break any records before they set out, the four Australians shaved off four days of the previous fastest circumnavigation by a British team in 2005. The first ever circumnavigation of South Georgia by kayak was achieved in 2005 just a month before the British attempt by the three-man ‘Adventure Philosophy’ team from New Zealand taking 19 days.

Back in King Edward Cove near Grytviken after 13 days celebrating the successful circumnavigation (Photo: South Georgia Island Circumnavigators)
Back in King Edward Cove near Grytviken after 13 days celebrating the successful circumnavigation (Photo: South Georgia Island Circumnavigators)

Source: South Georgia Newsletter and expedition website on Facebook South Georgia Island Circumnavigators