Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Penguins, Penguins, and More Penguins (Nov. 14)

Today, we visited South Georgia Island for the first time! This was day one out of the five that we will be spending here.  As usual, we landed on two separate sites, one in the morning and one in the evening.  In the morning, we visited Salisbury Plain, and we visited Prion Island in the afternoon.
The morning was absolutely amazing! It happens to be the exact place from the picture that first inspired me to go here many years ago. One of my favorite photographers, Thomas Mangelsen had a coffee table book with a lot of pictures from this place, and the real place seems just as enticing as I first imagined it.  The rocky beach is surrounded by snow covered mountains and glaciers!  There were over one hundred thousand king penguins at this one beach!  Yeah, that's right, 100,000.  Count them, five zeroes!  

Just us and a few friends at Salisbury Plain.

We landed on the beach early this morning for a try at a sunrise shot, but it was completely overcast and has been quite foggy all day.  But we still managed to get some really special pictures!  The beach was absolutely covered with penguins waiting to hop into the surf, and the male fur seals and elephant seals were also present, staking claim to their piece of the beach for the upcoming breeding season.  (Small note: I do not care for the fur seals.  They are actually quite aggressive and smell almost as badly.)  
The penguins here are quite curious. When you sit down to their level or when they relax, they will walk right up to you, which is really cool, but sometimes they're too close to focus your camera.  They also have the typical penguin waddle and awkward head movements that make them seem so comical! 
The afternoon was not quite as good as the morning, but the naturalists kept telling us how special it was to land there. The weather has to be calm enough, and you must obtain a special permit to land here.  In addition to that, this is the only place that visitors (meaning anyone other than researchers or government officials) can see a wandering albatross on its nest.  The Wanderers as we call them, just happen to be the birds with the largest wingspans in the world. We managed to see 5-6 chicks on nests, but no adults were present.  They were out to sea gathering food for their chicks. Now I say chick, but that may be misleading.  This is a semi-fluffy bird that weighs around 25 pounds and is larger than its parents.  After all of their feathers finish developing and the parents leave them, they actually have to lose weight to fly for the first time. Without the parents arriving though, the photography wasn't so good.  
Oh and Jason is "pumped" because we saw the South Georgia Pipit, which is apparently the most southern songbird in the world.  So, on a ship with many birders in a "prime" birding location with guides and an ornithologist who specializes in sea birds, I've come to notice something... Jason's birding habit is closer to the level of the ornithologist than many of the self-proclaimed birders aboard.  I think we all knew he had the bug, just not how badly, lol.  

The "mighty" South Georgia Pipit!

Anyway, hoping for another great day on SGI!  
Oh and for everyone back at PCC in Atlanta. Thinking and praying for y'all!  Managed to get some additional time aboard ship yesterday to watch one of the Passion 2011 videos of Francis Chan. So good! And I happen to have enough to watch one each Sunday that we're missing at PCC!  Can't wait for Passion 2012 at the Dome!

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