Monday, February 11, 2013

A full day of penguining....

The day after being flown over to the continent of Antarctica and we awake to a day's plan that has us heading over to Devil's Island to see an Adelie penguin colony.  Based on the group numbers and the order shuffling that works to make sure everyone gets a chance at the front of the line, we are scheduled to take our second trip on the helicopters just before lunch is served.

So, knowing that we will not get lunch on board we fill up with breakfast and in snacking a lot while enjoying the beauty of the vast landscape of ice that we looked out upon.  But, as we are warned often happens in Antarctica, the weather changed and just before we were due to take off the winds picked up and they grounded the helicopters so that the ship could move south closer to Devil's Island and the better weather that they were enjoying.

One nice thing is that we would then get lunch on the ship, and although somewhat full it was good to eat in preparation of 3-4 hours out in the elements.  It took the ship almost an hour to move to a new position where the winds were favorable, and we did for a minute feel bad for the early groups that had gone out in the morning and were now stuck out on Devil's Island if they had wanted to head back earlier on their tour.

The world seems to like us, in that as we were at lunch and the ship was moving we happened upon a lone Emperor Penguin out on the ice.  The entire lunchroom emptied to run out to get photos and I learned quickly from listening to the group next to us that in German an Emperor Penguin is simply called "Ein Kaiser Penguin".

So after the happiness of seeing a Kaiser up close we moved on to the helicopters, and a short ride  later we were sitting on the fast ice looking at a 30-40 minute walk to the Adelie Penguin colony.
 It was interesting to land on ice and know that in another month or two the hike we were making would be over open water.  As we walked you could feel the soft snow, and when we got to Devil's Island you could see melt water streaming down the hills past the penguins.  We had to walk up a carefully marked path, basically up the waterfall of melt, so that we did not disturb the penguins that were guarding their eggs.  We made it up that slippery slope to get close ups of the Adelie's - we did see some mud covered guys that had slipped - and spend time amazed at watching these loud and stinky animals up close...
By stinky I only mean that you can smell them when you walk up to them, but then within 5 minutes of just watching you move past that and just sit in amazement at the actions of the group.  The cooing, the codling of the eggs, the stealing of nest rocks, and the bachelors wandering off early to the ocean for food..
I've still got my egg - I'm good.
Stealing a nest rock

 After we felt we had gotten more photos then we needed we headed back down across the ice and even had fun watching the penguins that were heading out across the ice towards the ocean.
Come on buddy, it's only 2km to open water...

The whole scene was amazing, and as you walked back you could just see how desolate the place is despite all of it's beauty.  They had a emergency tent stationed at the landing point, but even with that you get an idea that if the weather really took a turn you could be in big trouble.  It's a very isolated place and the time you spend there really makes one appreciate what the early explorers went through...

That evening at a very late dinner our table recounted our stories of the day, we did feel somewhat bad about talking about seeing an Emperor up close whilst others were out touring Devil's Island, we were interrupted with an announcement that there was another Kaiser penguin just right outside.  Everyone on the trip had now seen at least one Emperor, not a bad way to end our day...
Kaiser Penguin enjoying the sunset in Antarctica

No comments: