31 October Happy Halloween!

Cooper Bay is down at the southern tip of the island, and is home to a colony of Chinstrap Penguins that was nearly wiped out by an outbreak of avian cholera in 2004. The ship hadn't been back since then, and the crew wanted to see how well it was recovering. It has come back nicely, as you can see from the picture. Chinstraps are not common on South Georgia.

There is also a colony of Macaroni Penguins (“...stuck a feather in his hat...”), which nest up on cliff tops, and are thus a bit difficult to reach; but this is the only place we are likely to see them. Since I have (of course) contracted the ship's cold, I elected not to go on the scramble up the cliff face, but Rick went and got some great pics. (Rick: Very steep, slippery climb - lots of mud and ice)

Macaroni Penguin pics

I went on the Zodiac tour instead; some of the drivers dressed in wigs and funny hats for Halloween -- a very peculiar effect with their orange survival suits. I expect there will be more of that tonight.

We saw more Fur Seals, Elephant Seals, King Penguins, and a couple of Macaronis returning from the sea and hopping up the rocks. The sea was smooth as glass, and the weather is good again – but the ship itself wallows as it lies at anchor, since the stabilizers don't work when we are not moving. Rick's group was just leaving the Chinstrap colony when my group arrived – we waved to each other from our Zodiacs. We were both lucky with our landings and didn't get swamped by incoming waves. Others were not quite so lucky. One of our photographic team members lost a camera.

The Chinstraps are one of my favorite kinds, and I sat on the beach for quite a while watching them porpoising in the waves, bouncing up onto the beach, and marching back to the colony. I saw one Gentoo marching up the other way, and a few Kings in the waves as well. They don't seem to be exclusive, even though they bunch up for the most part. There are still loads of seabirds and the Skuas and Snowy Sheathbills are everywhere scrounging among the seals and penguins. This wild landscape is teeming with life, and we haven't even reached the vast colonies of the leeward side yet!

Penguins and Seals and more, oh my!

We are now in a deep fjord, which is very beautiful, but not so many animals because of the very steep sides. The wind whistles down into it with astonishing force, but we reached a calm protected spot at the end, and there are some sightseeing Zodiacs in the water. We elected to skip those in favor of catching up on our photographic chores and correspondence. And in my case, to rest up and drink hot tea.