Death on Penguin Island


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Antarctica » Antarctica » South Shetland Islands
December 30th 2008
Published: February 11th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

The wind picked up again as we approached Penguin Island, creating a short, choppy sea. By 9.15 a.m. Lisa and I were ashore on the rocky beach and set out to climb to the top of the 170m caldera; unfortunately, the way up was too crowded with petrel and albatross nests for us to pass without disturbing the brooding birds, so we spent our time along the beach and up on a headland with a large Chinstrap Penguin colony. For the first time we saw baby Chinstraps still at nest - the Chinstraps make a gathering of stones in which to lay their two eggs. And I watched a Brown Skua as it surveyed the scene from a big rock in the centre of the colony and then made a sudden dive for a chick when an adult shifted its stance for just a second. It was all over in an instant, and the Skua and its mate shared a good size meal between them.

The wind on the beach made it bitterly cold and it was very pleasant to get back on the ship to warm up. The morning had been pretty overcast, but the clouds began to clear and we were rewarded with wonderful views of King George Island, King George Bay, and Penguin Island - which looked totally different when bathed in sunlight.

During lunch we started moving on for our afternoon landing. Off to starboard, King George Island, ninety per cent covered in ice and snow, glinted in the sun - at last we felt we were truly in Antarctica. Soon we turned north into Admiralty Bay where the Polish Henryk Arctowski research station is located. Magic, the ship’s doctor had spent a year here in 1998, and he was showing his son Anton where he had been located. He is obviously attracted by challenging locations as he was off to Afghanistan for two years after this cruise. We landed on the beach nearby an Adelie Penguin colony, and paid a visit to the Polish base for tea and biscuits. Several ships had been unable to make Zodiac landings in the bay over the past few days, but for us the sea was calm and there was hardly a breath of wind.

There are eight year-round and five summer research stations on King George Island. Its proximity to South America is an attraction, and Chile has a runway at their base so it makes logistics much easier (and cheaper) for the other twelve nations to re-supply their stations.

Sunset tonight was around eleven o’clock but we were asleep before then with the anticipation of an early rise in the morning.Next ➤ ➤

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