Dinosaur of the week: Chinstrap Penguin

chinstrap-penguinsIf you’d like to see many more of Pygoscelis antarctica, but can’t go to Antarctica in person, you can participate in the Penguinwatch project. It’s great fun!

A Visit to the Penguin Post Office

Port Lockroy – British history 64° south. If you are interested, their website is great: http://www.ukaht.org/. It’s a magnificent place to be, especially in sunshine. Base AMuseum The tiny island where it is located is also home to a Gentoo colony, and yes, part of the Zooniverse project http://www.penguinwatch.org/. The BBC made, helped by the people who work at the UK’s southernmost post office, a film about the place, aptly called ‘Penguin Post Office’. Watch it!

The penguins have one addition here to their life. They can, and sometimes do, stand to attention.flag

Or they just get on with pebbles and breeding.

It was really a gorgeous day, so we spent only a few minutes inside the quirky museum. Life as it used to be here, one of the people working there even turned on the old gramophone, playing Frank Sinatra, I think. Not entirely my time or music, but it was great fun. window

Again outside, we needed to be careful not to trip over the Snowy Sheathbills. snowy sheathbillThey were busy scavenging in the penguin poo. The Antarctic Skuas were trying to finish their acrobatic mating business, it looked successful.skua 1 skua 2

This must be the most wonderful post office to work in. I shall definitely keep that in mind as an option to come back here.mountain 1 mountains 2 mountains 3

St Andrews Bay

glacierThe King Penguin colony in front of the Ross Glacier is also connected to the Zooniverse project http://www.penguinwatch.org and to http://www.penguinlifelines.org.

The number of inhabitants is in the region of several hundred thousand, depending on time of the year. It was stunning to see even from the ship. The tiny Snowy Sheathbills were getting almost no attention.snowy sheathbill

At the landing site, female Elephant Seals defied all rules of keeping a distance, and the Kings were not any better. landing siteI think they liked using the path the humans had created. Elephant sealsBut we really did keep away from the Elephant Seal bulls. Luckily, they were in much better mood than the Fur Seal bulls. If they were around, we had a system of one taking pictures and the other one guarding and, if necessary shooing the teenage bulls away. I got quite good at that! You just make yourself big, and then let out an almighty ‘HAAA’ coming from deep down in your guts. It’s a bit like Tai Chi.

Along the way we saw several reindeer skeletons. The animals had been introduced by humans, and now they are being culled (http://www.sgisland.gs/index.php/%28h%29Welcome_to_South_Georgia). reindeer

The Skuas have to hunt for themselves. They are rather good at that. Skua feeding

The way to the colony was scored with two rivers. The penguins were decidely better in crossing them than the humans, but we made it. riverriver 2

Finally, the joy of not a flock, but a carpet of penguins.colony KingsI found it overwhelming. I was, after all I had seen so far, still unprepared for this. I can deal much better with smaller numbers. But for the penguins and all the scavengers like the Snowy Sheathbills a healthy big colony is what we should wish for and help to protect!

So we said good-bye to South Georgia and started sailing past the South Orkneys to the South Shetland Islands, just off the Antarctic Peninsula.