Everyone always associates penguins with Antarctica. I'm fine with that, as long as they don't think Polar Bears live here too. So before I can talk about anything else Antarctic we need to address penguins.
On the tourist ships we've seen two types so far, Gentoo and Chinstrap. The elusive Adele is out there too. Not sure that I'll see any others given the locations where we might stop. These few species have been awfully cute so far though. Right now its breeding season so they are gathering rocks to make their nests. Typically the male will go off and pick up a rock, bring it back to his lady friend and if she likes it, it becomes part of their new nursery. Sometimes the rocks are small but I also saw one very proud fellow carry a rock the size of his head! He was bursting with pride as he dumped it at her doorstep. Too bad it didn't go with the décor as she seemed less than impressed.
From there on, well, sometimes it seems I should turn my back and give the little guys some privacy. They certainly don't seem shameful as they jump aboard. The Gentoos and Chinstraps have slightly different styles and balancing techniques but mostly the same. They flap their arms furiously as they teter back and forth on the lower half of the female as she lays down. Apparently it’s not always successful so they have to make many attempts. If all goes well, 2 to 3 days later we have an egg! But it doesn't hatch for 31 to 37 days later. At first the parents take turns feeding the chick while also getting food for themselves. The parent who returns from the sea brings a mouthful of krill and then proceeds to vomit it back up into the chicks mouth. Yummy.
We visited several different locations. Barrientos island, Cuverville, Deception Iisland, Half Moon Island, Neko harbour and Paradise Bay. Cuverville has the largest gentoo penguin colony on the peninsula, over 10,000 breeding pairs! They were spread out as little black dots but you could still grasp that there were lots of little birds around. At some sites, there were multiple species of penguins nesting. I loved most was seeing the Gentoos and Chinstraps living near each other with no dramas. They just get along. Maybe we should all take lesson to live more like a penguin and be kind to your neighbor.
I can't wait to go back and visit some of these same places as the chicks are born and grow. Everything was pristine white and only slightly tinged with the smell of penguin guano in the air. That's penguin poo for those of you not savvy on your scat. It's going to get a lot dirtier, smellier, and noisier as the season progresses. For now enjoy these beautiful penguin pictures.
More fun facts about Gentoos, Chinstraps and Adelie penguins.
I can’t pretend that I knew all of this, of course I looked things up. There is TONS more information out there for you to explore. Check out these resources for more information too: