Before the passengers could go on shore, the Expedition Team prepared the landing site. At Salisbury Plain that included spotting the bit of the beach that was not entirely occupied by Fur Seals. Boat groups of passengers took turns in who was allowed to go first, and as a result I was the first of only a few lucky ones to make it. The landing had to be aborted and turned into a drive-by on the polarcircle boats because of the swell. Anyway, there I was, being utterly happy. Coming to this place had been a secret hope (the surprise came on the evening before the landing) because this colony is part of a project hosted by the Zooniverse, http://www.penguinwatch.org/.
This meant I had seen pictures similar to mine below before, but was still gobsmacked by the reality. In the project, members of the public, called Citizen Scientists, help to identify juvenile and adult penguins from different colonies. Give it a try! Or go to http://www.penguinlifelines.org/ for more information.
Although the King Penguins are the main attraction, given the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of them not difficult, there was a lot more going on. Giant Petrels were always around. We had to be very careful around young male adult Fur Seals, but the Elephant Seals were much more pleasant. The penguins and the seals seem to exist following a ‘live and let live’ idea. The colony is just one of several on the island, and the peculiar breeding cycle of the Kings gave us a chance to see chicks in all their brown fluffiness, moulting adults and courting adults.
Penguin communication involves a lot of body language. They also spend a surprising amount of time on their bellies or standing on their heels. On a sunny day at Salisbury Plain, life is definitely good.