Tao 19: South Georgia Islands (1)

(2016-05-29 18:22:39) 下一个

It’s the 24th of November. We are at sea. There’s not much to do except attending the presentations on the ship. Someone remembered that it’s Thanksgiving, so turkey was added as a dinner option. People cheered, most chose lamb instead.

We met a couple from Florida, Kim and Mario, and became quick friends.  Kim is a lawyer. Mario is a navy pilot turned airline pilot turned lawyer. The two of them were a lot of fun to be with.  I also like Kim’s thick southern accent.  She told us that there is southern accent, and then there is southern accent.  Hers is the accent of the poorer class, and there is one spoken by the old money intellectuals.  She sounded serious, and  I’m not arguing with a lawyer.

At around noon we approached Shag Rocks.  It’s a rock formation rising out of the ocean which became a nesting place for a mass of South Georgia Shags (see below).  Unfortunately it was really foggy.  None of us could see the rocks.  However, there were large groups of shags flying purposely around the ship that proved its existence.

South Georgia Shags

After another uneventful day at sea, we arrived at the South Georgia Islands on the 27th.  For the past two days we had relatively smooth sailing. Only a few people were affected by seasickness. Myself, who were usually prone to it, seem to handle it just fine. Knock on wood.

At 9AM we came ashore on the Zodiacs at Bay of Islands. South Georgia Islands has over 100,000 pairs of King Penguins.  It is in fact the only place we will see these magnificent birds on our trip. There were so many of them here.  It was simply overwhelming.

Landing amongst the penguins

The shore staff have a hard time with the waves

The penguin colony extends all the way up the hill

Aside from penguins, there were also many fur seals on the beach.  The male seals are very territorial during mating season.  They would defend their space aggressively against any and all intruders, including humans.

Luckily their mating season had just passed, so we had less of a problem coming ashore.  Still, we had to walk carefully around the male seals.  Our guides were all holding two rocks in hand. It’s not for throwing at the seals – they smash the rocks together and the sound seemed to keep the seals at a distance.

The penguins gave this male fur seal a wide berth.

A female fur seal and a baby seal of a few weeks

With this much wild life, it’s not going to be nice and quiet.  King penguin colony has a distinctive cacophony of male mating calls and the more high pitched sound of the chicks.  The beach also had a strong musky smell that takes a while to get used to.  Simon (our bird man) understandably blames the smell entirely on the seals.  The man’s love for birds knows no bounds. We adored him.

A proud King Penguin. Adults in season have brighter colors to attract the opposite sex.

This sleepy head is a female Elephant Seal.  The are larger and more plump than the fur seals.  Their flippers are smaller and less flexible, which makes moving on land awkward.  They are also more fun to watch.

An adult male fur seal displaying its formidable teeth.

A young fur seal enjoying a nice scratch

The island is full of penguins, and their poo.  Be very careful where you stand, and where you fall.

Badge of Honor.

King Penguins are very curious birds. We are not allowed to walk within 5 meters of them, but they often come closer to check us out.

King penguin calling

This young seal's hanging with the wrong crowd

A sleepy seal is a happy seal.

A group of King Penguins ignoring us. That's mario in the background.

Hand in hand

The yellow feathers are beautiful

King penguins lay eggs every two years, and it takes them just over a year to raise a chick. Those without a chick may choose to molt their feathers.  This process takes weeks during which they cannot go into the ocean to feed (new feathers cannot yet water seal their body).  They will need to depend on their body fat during this period.  Penguins seem to do this regularly.  I guess that’s one of the reasons they are so plump.  I’ve never gone two days without food myself, and I’d like to keep it that way.

A molting King Penguin

Close up of the feathers

Did I say elephant seals are fun to watch? Their sleeping posture is not the best.

Are you talking about me?

Photographing from the tussock grass

King penguins with Akademik Ioffe in the back ground

The large colony extends up the hill.  Late comers had to climb all the way up, as a result they often have a smaller chance of successful breeding. The brown dots are the penguin chicks.

A closer look of molting feathers

This young fur seal claimed a patch of tussock grass, and he's not yielding.

The penguin chicks are usually further away from the beach for better protection.  After spending some time on the beach, Simon led us further inland into the colony.

The blue bag suits her

These poor guys molt together. The ground is covered with their feathers.

King Penguin chicks looks very different from the adults.  They also stay this way for a year or so.  As such, early explorers thought they were a different species of penguin all together.  I don’t blame them.

This guy looks like a cartoonized kiwi fruit

They exercise by quickly flipping their little flippers and running around

Pulling a headless stunt

A parent cleaning the feathers of its young

Penguin chick begging for food.

For a cartoonized kiwi fruit, they are quite flexible

It must be warm in that coat

Two chicks looking miserable

Happy feet

Didn't I tell you to finish your homework?

Two comrades (两个领导)

Two curious chicks investigating the rubber boots of a tourist

Cool, a mirror! How do I look?

... ...

A penguin chick strutting his stuff

Overlooking the colony

Conspiring trio

The two of us in front of the penguin colony

This young seal occupied a nice tussock bed

Some had to sleep on the rocks.

An odd Gentoo Penguin in the wrong colony



A little stretching always helps

Fur seals don't have the best sleeping posture either.

Looking innocent (萌). Note the tiny ears.

In the Afternoon we landed in Fortuna Bay. There’s plenty of wild life around. But after this morning’s overwhelming display, this place almost seemed deserted.

We wanted to spend more time with the seals and penguins, so we opted out of the hiking option and stayed on the beach the whole time. Turned out hiking might be better as when the sun was down and the wind picked up, we were quite miserable.  We managed to get a lot of pictures though.

A cute young fur seal

Is this body shape really practical?

Long legs, short arms.

Three elephant seal pups decided to investigate a group of King Penguins on the beach.  It made for some fun pictures.

The seal pups are not dangerous, but rather playful.

A loud and resounding slap - Nah It didn't happen. This King was just trying to look menacing.

The king penguin giving the seal pup some stern talking-to.

Yound male fur seals do not hesitant to chanllenge much bigger opponents

Another sleepyhead

Tracy’s having a blast.  There’s not many places in the world where you could interact with wild life so closely in their natural habitat.  For an animal lover it doesn’t get much better.

Tracy's cold but happy.

After Fortuna Bay, out ship continued slowly east along the north side of the island.  We will be spending another day and half on South Georgia Islands.

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