My last blog from our recent visit to Antarctica shared some of the remarkable scenery on Danko Island and the Errera Channel. Today I'd like to show you the most interesting feature of the area, namely the thousands of Gentoo penguins that live here.
(penguine guano stains the snow a reddish-brown color)
The first landing of our journey to the southern continent was here on Danco Island. As you can see in the above photo, the white snow of the island has large irregular patches of reddish-brown, which is where you'll find the penguins. The color is due to the abundance of pinkish-red krill -- a shrimp-like organism -- in their diet. As with many birds, fecal material stains the areas in which penguins live.
Zodiacs zipped us from the Octantis for a wet landing on the rocky shore of Danko Island. Here we disembarked, to be greeted by scattered penguins going to and from the sea (presumably to eat).
(penguins on the shore of Danco Island)
It was late spring, but the island was still covered with lots of snow and ice. Our guides had worked a path up the lower part of the island and with trekking poles we made our way to an observation point. It was slippery and one had to be careful.
(working our way up Danco Island for a closer look at the penguins)
There are rules for visiting Antarctica. No more than 100 people can go ashore at any time. All gear brought on shore needed to be cleaned before departing our ship, especially our boots, which received a through automated scrub before and after each departure. And you can't directly go to the penguins. They can come to you, but not the other way around.
There are several thousand Gentoo penguins living on Danco island. We had two bird biologists/nest counters on our ship who wanted to see how penguin reproduction was going that year. The answer was not well. The nesting places were still all covered with snow, late in the season we were told. Gentoo penguins can't lay their eggs in snow -- they need exposed rock or land to do this. So there were no eggs or penguin chicks on this island.
We spent the better part of an hour watching and photographing the Gentoo penguins. They are most delightful, and very entertaining!
(Gentoo penguins on Danco Island)
Some of my favorite images from our trip were taken on Danco island, the photos nicely summarizing our experience in Antarctica: penguins, mountains, glaciers and icebergs. I found it truly beautiful!
I close this blog with several videos showing penguins in action. I hope you enjoy them!