20 Feb 2024

Antarctic Expedition. Part 8. Kings and Elephants

One of the species on most peoples most wanted list on visiting Antarctica is King Penguin. We were no exception and we eagerly anticipated our trips to visit the King Pengun colonies at Golden Harbour and St Andrews Bay. Unfortunately bird flu restrictions meant we couldn't land but we were able to cruise along the shore line in the zodiacs. The sight and sound of over 350,000 pairs of King Penguins and their young (over a million birds) was mind blowing and at times I didn't know where to look. After a few shots of thedensely packed rookery I decided to focus more on small groups of birds to show their beautiful plumage colouration to greater effect.

King Penguin appearing to tip toe past sleeping Elephant Seals

There were a lot of young King Penguins of various ages in the colony, with some still in their all brown wooly coats looking like a cross between a sheep and a penguin, whilst others were moulting into their full adult plumage with only traces of brown down. One of our guides, Koen K, managed to find a single Macaroni penguin that had somehow got itself lost and arrived ashore in the King Penguin colony. We'd see plenty of this species later in the trip but it's always nice to see the first one! It looked a bit bewildered and it was quite funny to see it being 'escorted off the premises' between two King Penguins.

Lost Macaroni Penguin. 

As well as the King Penguins St Andrews Bay was home to lots of Elephant Seals. The majority chilling out not doing much except flick cooling sand over their bodies but a few were a bit more active either looking at us inquisitively or having a bit of a territorial disagreement.

Sadly we did see a number of dead penguins and seals, victims of bird-flu, on the beaches and we tried to count as many as possible for reporting to the relevant authorities. A sobering end to another brilliant excursion. As we made our way back to the Plancius I reflected on how lucky we were to be able to get so close to these colonies without having to set foot on land. 

Before our evening meal we had our usual daily briefing as to what we'd done and seen that day along with the plans for the following day. Another superb dinner on board followed by an impromptu crash course in the star constellations of the southern night sky, on a moon lit deck by, Eduardo, our expedition leader.

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