It was our last full day in Antarctica. Our day of rest had us ready and raring to go to enjoy every last minute of our last day, and Tim, Rob and Martin had a plan in place for doing as much as possible. However Antarctica had also figured out that we were leaving and finally gave us our first real day of Antarctic weather, and still it was considered a "good" weather day. All through our trip we have talked about how lucky we were with the weather wherever we went. Clear blue skies almost every day. No snow (except a very little on our first first day), not much wind, good temperatures. We really couldn't have asked for anything better than what we got, and we got it for more than 10 days, which is pretty much unheard of. So when our final day came and the skies were grey and overcast and it was lightly snowing, seriously, who were we to complain?
First up on the day's agenda was visiting a massive penguin rookery on Devil Island. Devil Island was discovered by a Swedish Antarctic Expedition under Nordenskjöld between 1901 and 1904 (per information from Tim and Rob). Devil Island was home to the largest penguin rookery we'd seen yet. Up until now the rookeries we encountered might have up to 400 penguins living there but most of them had less than 100. Devil Island on the other hand gave us a look at a rookery with thousands upon thousands of penguins.
Our first look at the massive penguin rookery was a bit surprising. While still on the Hanse Explorer, Tim and Rob pointed out where we were headed. An island with a peak at the center but as you looked down the island towards where it met the water the colors of the terrain changed from whites, blacks and greys to pink speckled with black. And there was a lot of pink! We had been around enough penguins at this point to know the signs, we should have put two and two together, but it still took us by surprise when it was pointed out that the pink and black was the penguin rookery. We knew that the penguin rookeries were covered in the pink poo of penguins, but we just had never seen so much of it before.
The majority of the penguins at Devil Island are Adelie, but living right along side them are a large number of Gentoo penguins as well.
The chicks in this rookery are much older than many of the babies we have seen. They require a lot more food at this stage. So much so that both parents need to go out for food. At this stage many of the parents leave the babies in groupings, or crŹches, with other babies that huddle together for warmth and protection. In this large of a colony this is still done and of course closer to the center of group means that the chicks are even better protected.
However even with the large group warmth many chicks will not make it. Eventually the parents are only able to collect enough food to support one chick, no matter how hard they try. And when one does pass away there are always opportunistic feeders like the Skua around to clean up the mess.
During our entire trip we strictly held to the guidelines of staying out of the penguins way and not approaching a penguin (or any other wildlife) closer than 15 feet. With the penguins everywhere in the colony this was sometimes hard. Most often we choose a spot close by where we could observe but not interfere. However in this congested location it was not uncommon for the penguins to take notice of us. Most of them glanced at us and just went on with their business. Down at the beach we had been laying on the beach watching them parade past us.
Later in the day I spent time sitting on the ground in a rather wide “roadway” between two rather large nesting areas. I stayed away from the penguins, but there was one who didn’t stay away from me. Curiosity got the better of him and he approached me to check me out. I stayed as still as I possibly could, though my shutter finger kept on clicking. He was so adorable, tilting his head this way and that to check me out. Even braving reaching out to tap the folded cloth of my pants at my knee. Eventually though he needed to get on with his business and return to his chicks to feed them. I still consider this curious little penguin to be my penguin.
Our next post will be a censored mini post about the skua feeding that we witnessed. (This post will be graphic, and if that is not your thing you may not want to view it. Also new mothers may not want to view this post as it does involve a baby bird.)
Tim returned through the falling blanket of snow to pick us up to head back to the Hanse Explorer. And this was just the first adventure of the day!
Table of Contents:
Introduction: Telling the Story posted Jan 10, 2009
Day 0: Positioning posted Jan 12, 2009
Leaving, on a jet plane posted Jan 12, 2009
Day 1: The Herc posted Jan 15, 2009
Day 1: Penguino posted Jan 16, 2009
Day 2: Chicken posted Jan 17, 2009
Day 2: Leopard posted Jan 19, 2009
Day 2: Snow Day posted Jan 22, 2009
Day 2: Shipwreck posted Jan 26, 2009
Day 2: Totally Tabular posted Jan 27, 2009
Day 3: Gentoo Cute posted Jan 29, 2009
Day 3: Lichen Shag Glacier posted Feb 3, 2009
Day 3: Palmer Station Visit posted Feb 9, 2009
Day 4: Icy Penguins posted Feb 11, 2009
Day 4: Adelie Awesome posted Feb 15, 2009
Day 4: Leopard Seal Attack posted Feb 17, 2009
Day 4: Kayak posted Feb 19, 2009
Day 4: Vernadsky Station Visit posted Feb 23, 2009
Day 4: Vernadsky Sunset posted Feb 25, 2009
Day 5: Antarctic Circle posted Feb 27, 2009
Day 5: Polar Plunge posted Mar 5, 2009
Day 5: Mouth of The Gullet posted Mar 13, 2009
Day 5: Ice Camping posted Mar 18, 2009
Day 6: Flamingos on Ice posted Mar 20, 2009
Day 6: Mountain Climbing posted Mar 24, 2009
Day 6: Ice Textures posted Mar 26, 2009
Day 6: Antarctic New Years posted Apr 2, 2009
Day 7: Crystal Sound Icebreaker posted Apr 9, 2009
Day 7: Abandoned Antarctica: Base W - Part 1 posted Apr 17, 2009
Day 7: Abandoned Antarctica: Base W - Part 2 posted Apr 21, 2009
Day 8: Bird Watching in the Fish Islands posted Apr 23, 2009
Day 8: Icee Day - Part 1 posted May 5, 2009
Day 8: Icee Day - Part 2 posted May 11, 2009
Day 9: Port Lockroy - Base A posted May 20, 2009
Bonus Chapter: Baby Penguins! posted May 21, 2009
Day 9: Antarctic Humpback Whales posted June 3, 2009
Day 9: Dallmann Butt Sliding posted June 11, 2009
Day 10: Birthday Whales posted June 23, 2009
Day 10: Hannah Point Part 1: The Birds posted July 15, 2009
Day 10: Hannah Point Part 2: Elephant Seals posted July 22, 2009
Day 10: Deception Island - Part 1: Walking on the Moon posted Dec 11, 2009
Day 10: Deception Island - Part 2: The Martian Chronicles of Oz posted Dec 15, 2009
Day 11: Emperor Penguins posted Jan 8, 2010
» Day 12: Black and White and Pink All Over posted Aug 4, 2011
More chapters posted every few days...
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