The last penguins

Once again the great weather prompted a short notice penguin trip to Windy Bay, this time being the first of the summer weekend recreation offers. We put ourselves down as reserves giving people who hadn’t been before a chance to see the penguins. Surprisingly, the trip wasn’t full so three of us veteran winterers joined the gaggle of summer staff at the snocat and took off westwards. We got to the Bay soon enough and found the ice was still in the cove, but more ocean was open than previously, i.e. a great chance to see the penguins swimming about. One by one we helped everyone get ready and abseiled onto the sea ice. After everyone was safe at the bottom, more or less directly and/or with added acrobatic displays, we walked out to the edge of the sea ice and delved into the world of the frozen planet, everyone trying to catch that perfect David-Attenborough-with-penguins shot with their cameras.

The penguins had been addling about the edge for a while and finally they all jumped into the water and thrashed about like mad clearly enjoying the cool off in a baking -5°C. There were waves of penguins breaching the water surface swimming almost in a triangle formation up and down the open lead. Desperately trying to get a good photo using a borrowed camera I stalked the edge of the ice to capture any penguins jumping out of the water all the while ignoring the crowd cawing for my attention around me. The things we start taking for granted! At last I got my shot and of course everyone else got the exact same shot, but at least it’s one off my bucket list.

We ambled around some more, had some tea and wandered across to the “hill” the penguins had been climbing last time. It seems they make their way up the incline munching snow as they go. There even was a lost adelie penguin roaming about looking very small and confused at his oversized counterparts.

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On the way up we jumared on two ropes and at the top helped pull others up on a pulley system to speed things up. There was a slight breeze and it was an absolute delight to watch the birds play and surf on eddies at the top of the ice shelf ledge. Snow petrels are a common sight now and their pure white feathers stand out beautifully against the blue sky. There was also an Antarctic petrel with darker wings and a smoky brown skua eyeing up the colony for food. Once we were all packed and on our way home, heads started to bob as people nodded off after a glorious day out, for some only having been in Antarctica for a couple of days and still grasping the fact of where they are this must have seemed like a dream. As much as I have grown accustomed to this place, I’m glad that I still have a feeling of awe and excitement about being here. That surely must be a sign of having had a good winter.

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