Back on land today, to the aptly named Penguin Island. I grudgingly bypassed the day's hike for the promise of an extra dose of chinstrap penguins, and was justly rewarded. A large breeding colony provided us with chinstraps at every stage of maturity, from fluffball chicks to lanky teenagers and perhaps new definitions of 'adorable'. There was so much action in this colony that watching and photographing it never got old.
But this is not the international incident I speak of, as the penguins and I were very well behaved, despite our cultural differences. The incident came at King George's Island, home of bases representing Uruguay, Russian, China, and Chile. We stopped here to meet the medevac helicopter that was scheduled to pick up 3 ailing passengers, and planned to make a short landing on the island, much to the delight of the Russian crew, who looked forward to visiting the old Russian church in the center of town. Poised in our orange wetskins and ready to unload, we waited and waited. Expedition Leader Dave reportedly spent a good deal of time negotiating the medevac contract on the beach before the copter would agree to fly anyone to Chile. And I witnessed one particularly hostile exchange between our captain and that of the Chilean naval vessel that complained we were too close to it. Our captain was nice enough to curse him out in English, and not Russian, so we could all appreciate it. Although in retrospect, perhaps that's why we were not allowed to land. I stand by him regardless. Giving up on the excursion after all the time spent dealing with other issues, we changed out of our wetskins and were greeted by what I like to call Appeasement Happy Hour on the deck: muffins and booze. We were an easily bought crowd, and our spirits never quite dampened. Despite the drama of the day, the staff was always professional and Expedition Leader Dave gave us a full debrief of the day's events after dinner down in the large presentation room downstairs to try to dispel any rumors and be as open as possible. Taking the opportunity of all being gathered in one place, many of the passengers stayed and socialized and a few of us stayed up way too late dancing. Today did not bring the excursion we had hoped for, but it was a day of adventure nonetheless.