46 Photos

200,000 King Penguins!
Memories of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctic

Rockhopper penguins resting in New Island, Falkland IslandsRockhopper penguins resting in New Island, Falkland Islands (Amy Sonbuchner)
Luck is on our side, as our group gets to disembark at 9:00am. Happily, we aren't in the group that must disembark at 5:00am. This next stop is St. Andrew's Bay where 200,000 king penguin pairs and their chicks are filling the bay with their joyful cries.

We arrive on shore with a splash as a huge wave welcomes us onto the coast. We see skuas flying, fur seals sunning, and hundreds and thousands of penguins prancing around. We walk along the beach, into a valley, and up a hill. Each area offers amazing views of king penguins, but the view from the top of the hill is our absolute favorite.

From the top of the hill looking down, we see a small stream where penguins are swimming and beyond the penguins create a sea of black, white, brown, and orange. So many penguins, you can't even try to count them all. The scenery beside the penguins is impressive too. We love how the snow tipped mountains contrast with the field of penguins.

Back at the shore, we see the reflections of the penguins in the small ponds. The penguins look like they are posing for our photos, as the pond is too shallow for fishing or playing. We also see penguins feeding, fighting, and avoiding flying predators. But, the most surprising part is the noise. The penguins all seem very happy, and the noise is a delightful soundtrack--a musical piece with thousands of unique instruments that are half harmonica and half kazoo.

Our next stop is Grytviken, which was South Georgia's primary whaling station. Grytviken means ''Pot Cove'' and geographically is a bay within a bay. This whaling station operated from 1904 to 1965. Shakelton's grave is also here in the whaler's cemetery. We see some juvenile elephant seals here, and they are already quite large, perhaps twelve feet long. If the naturalists hadn't told us they are juveniles, we would never have guessed.

Walking through the rusted shelters and machinery, we can feel the past echoing through to the present. There's a strange mechanical-organic symmetry between the rusting metal on the buildings and the molting skin on the elephant seals. Both are shedding a former skin. And while the buildings have already been left alone, the elephant seals clearly still want to be left alone. They let out loud belches to remind us, whenever we get too close. While it's effective insofar as we move away, I can't help but to ask myself, ''Who thinks belches are scary?'' We head over to the museum and a shop, where we see the whaler's quarters and their tools before heading to the zodiacs.

Back on board, the expedition leader briefs us about tomorrow's early morning outing to Gold Harbour. While a low pressure system is on its way, we cross our fingers that it won't prevent us from seeing more of South Georgia. Fortunately, our group has the latest wake-up departure time once again. We will disembark at 7:30am which is quite reasonable compared to the 5:30am wake-up call others have. Most people go to bed early tonight.

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