Life as A Penguin (Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica)

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Life is busy. Chicks have to be fed, guarded, and kept warm even in these short summer months. Nests have to be maintained. Suitable stones and rocks are in short supply and there has been a lot of thieving going on this year. It is difficult with so many of us living in such a confined space.

Penguin Group on Rock
A Group of Penguin on Rock in Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica
Penguin Group on Rock
A Group of Penguin on Rock in Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

And we have our human guests to keep entertained as well. They look so silly with their bright orange and yellow heavy plastic outfits and unwieldy gumboots. They slither and slide on the slippery rocks and ice. Yet, nearly every day another ship disgorges a small army of them ferrying them to shore in the rubber zodiacs.

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Penguin chick and Mum
A Mum Penguin with her chick

What is that sound? Is that him? Oh, the unbridled joy. I am starving and I badly need a wash and finally, my husband has returned. I’m so happy to see him. He looks very contented with a belly so full that he can barely waddle those last few meters from the foreshore to our nest.

A Mum Penguin
A Penguin Mum

The chicks are overjoyed too as they screech in anticipation of another nutritious feed of krill, squid, and small fish. They have grown particularly well and if they stay safe, should be ready to leave the nest as summer finishes. The skuas continue to patrol overhead, looking for any chance to grab a chick, but vigilance should ensure our chick’s safety.

I hardly have the energy to struggle to the sea but I’ll soon be feeding. The waddle over the rough rocky terrain is hard work though belly-surfing on the snow is much easier.

A leopard seal
A leopard seal on an iceberg.

Oops, a brief pause. Is that a leopard seal on an iceberg? Is he in ambush or is he sleeping? We’ve lost a couple from our village in the last few days but I can’t wait much longer to set sail. And they are very nasty too. If they catch one of us, they’ll toss us around in the air like a play toy, entertaining themselves for hours.

I’ll have to dive in and aquaplane out to sea as quickly as possible. I’m so hungry and I only have so much time before I have to get back and take my shift again on the nest.

The cycle seems so constant, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life is pretty good as a penguin.

Notes

The wildlife of the Antarctic Peninsula is truly one of the great travel wonders of the world. The easiest access is from Ushuaia at the bottom of South America (Tierra del Fuego) via an expedition Russian ice-breaker. It is starting to get very touristy so go sooner rather than later if you possibly can. Timing on when you leave dictates what state the chicks are in (eggs, chicks, creche stage where both parents feed at the same time). You should see at least three species of penguins (Adelie as photoed, Gentoo, and Chinstrap).

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