Friday 9 January 2015

January 8 & 9 - Salisbury Plain and at Sea

Yesterday was a pretty amazing ending to our Antarctica and South Georgia experience.  I think doing the voyage from west to east has been more interesting as the changing landscapes eclipse one another.  Seeing the Chilean fjords first gives them new interest, where as seeing them after Antarctica they are kind of ho hum compared to the dramatic vistas of Antarctica. The same can be said for South Georgia. It is so different than Antarctica. Instead of a landscape dominated by an overwhelming whiteness, you see dramatic rock cliffs dusted by green vegetation - ice is very present but does not dominate the landscape. And then there are the King Penguins!

In Antarctica we saw large masses of penguins. For example, the Adelies at Esperanza number several hundred thousand individuals, but take a back seat to the 250,000 + Kings at Salisbury Plain.  The Kings are much larger birds so 250,000 Kings is a huge biomass! You also see them in a massive congregation that stretches about 2 km from the beach on an uphill slope. Added to that are 1000's of elephant seals and fur seals. The wheeling Giant Petrels and Skuas constantly circling over the rookery. And the din of that many birds!  They all seem to be making a noise. Where I was standing, there were several elephant seals in the tussac grass - their occasional roar gave a decidely "Jurassic Park" feel to the whole place!
Adult with a juvenile (about 10 months old)

King Penguins as far as the eye can see (almost).

Adults returning from fishing with a juvenile.

King Penguins everywhere!

Adults displaying courtship behavior

An almost fully fledged yearling - as soon as the brown down is replaced by adult plumage they will take to the water.

Ten or 11 month old juveniles still in full downy feathers.

Adults courting.

There were hundreds of baby fur seals along the beach and in the tussac grass.

Giant Petrel walking among the penguins looking for a meal.

Curious juvenile - they even came and pecked at my pants.

Seabourn physician - Dr. Sandra out among the penguins.

We were the last ones off from the shore - Iggy, Alex and David.

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