Monday, March 17, 2008

Life as a Penguin (Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica)

Life is busy. Chicks have to be fed, guarded and kept warm even in these short summer months. Nests have to be maintained. Suitable stones and rocks are in short supply and there has been a lot of thieving going on this year. It is difficult with so many of us living in such a confined space.

And we have our human guests to keep entertained as well. They look so silly with their bright orange and yellow heavy plastic outfits and unwieldly gum boots. They slither and slide on the slippery rocks and ice. Yet, nearly every day another ship disgorges a small army of them ferrying them to shore in the rubber zodiacs.

What is that sound? Is that him? Oh, the unbridled joy. I am starving and I badly need a wash and finally my husband has returned. I’m so happy to see him. He looks very contented with a belly so full that he can barely waddle those last few metres from the foreshore to our nest.

The chicks are overjoyed too as they screech in anticipation of another nutritious feed of krill, squid and small fish. They have grown particularly well and if they stay safe, should be ready to leave the nest as summer finishes. The skuas continue to patrol overhead, looking for any chance to grab a chick, but vigilance should ensure our chicks safety.

I hardly have the energy to struggle to the sea but I’ll soon be feeding. The waddle over the rough rocky terrain is hard work though belly-surfing on the snow is much easier.

Oops, brief pause. Is that a leopard seal on an iceberg? Is he in ambush or is he sleeping? We’ve lost a couple from our village in the last few days but I can’t wait much longer to set sail. And they are so nasty too. If they catch one of us, they’ll toss us around in the air like a play toy, entertaining themselves for hours.

I’ll have to dive in and aquaplane out to sea as quickly as possible. I’m so hungry and I only have so much time before I have to get back and taker my shift again on the nest.

The cycle seems so constant, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life is pretty good as a penguin.


The wildlife of the Antarctic Peninsula is truly one of the great travel wonders of the world. It rates third on my Top Ten list. Easiest access is from Ushuaia at the bottom of South America (Tierra del Fuego) via an expedition Russian ice-breaker. It is starting to get very touristy so go sooner rather than later if you possibly can. Timing on when you leave dictates what state the chicks are in (eggs, chicks, creche stage where both parents feed at the same time). You should see at least three species of penguins (Adelie as photoed, Gentoo and Chinstrap).


Christine Gilbert said...

I like it!

Sherin - IInternals said...

Interesting information as well as photos... I really like to visit such place... thanks for sharing and keep it up

Sherin - investinternals

Sherry said...

I want to go so badly! Were you actually there Mark? Did you do a cruise? I still haven't seen the movie March of the Penguins - but hope to steal it from my niece soon and watch it!

Mark H said...

@sherry: I went some years ago taking a smallish ship (80 passengers) from the bottom of South America and travelling for 12 days. I should write the trip up some more as there is a lot to the journey. All up - simply stellar. And I can certianly recommend March of the Penguins too (and Morgan is a fine narrator).

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