by Toffler



Antarctic Dream, Day 4: South Shetland Islands

December 12, 2007, by TofflerN, category Tourism, Traveling, Uncategorized

By 9am we were dressed and in a very unorganized fashion (this seems to be a trend for this ship) getting loaded into Zodiacs for our ride over to Aitcho Island, part of the South Shetland chain.  It was –3degreesC outside with a light blizzard.

Penguins, Penguins, Penguins!!
Upon arriving on shore we were greeted by colonies of Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins as well as Brown skuas and Giant petrels, bids of prey.  A walk up a snowy embankment led us to some penguin eggs which had been stolen by the petrels and eaten.  We also saw two very large seals, an elephant and Wedell seal.  But perhaps the highlight of the morning was seeing a King Penguin!  Normally King penguins, characterized by their yellow accents, are found farther north and so we wouldn’t encounter them on this trip.  It was a rare treat!  He was amazing and much larger than the Gentoos or Chinstraps.  Even the expedition guides were excited and taking photos of the King. Still, I thought the Chinstrap penguins were very very cute, even more so than the Gentoo or King.

Penguins live for about 25-30 years and only reach their breeding age after 5-7 years.  Penguins are not monogamous birds, though depending on the species they may keep the same mate for 2-3 mating seasons.  They communicate with their mate using a girggling, cookooing noise.  One penguin always has to sit on the egg to protect it and keep it warm while the other goes to the ocean for food.  Food for penguins are pink ocean creoles, which color also lends itself to penguin’s droppings.

We only had a short 1.5hours on the island.  Despite all the talk of advance scheduling of landing times, apparently the Aitcho Island was double booked this morning so we had to cut our normal three hour landing down to 2.

Despite the shortened time, my toes were already numb by the time I got back on the boat.  Upon returning to the boat I immediately stuck my feet in the hot shower, which caused my toes to swell up greatly (though the swelling went down by mid-afternoon).  Aside from that, I was comfortably warm, even too warm while ashore.  I had on 2 layers of long underwear, plus pants, and snowproof ski pants on bottom, while on top I had 4 layers plus a down jacket and an Antarctic expedition jacket.  Tomorrow: more socks, less shirts.

Returning to the ship by lunch, ostrich was served, something I would never eat otherwise.  Nonetheless, it tasted like red meat and was very edible.  After lunch another informational lecture was presented on the World of Ice, but which felt more like a vocabulary lesson.  Mom said, this would be good for Scrabble.  The afternoon was spent rolling around on the seas which incapacitated me for the rest of the day and I dreamed of setting foot on my 6th continent tomorrow.

So, what do you think ?