Robin's Adventures

Antarctic Expedition
A Party with Penguins

Strike a Pose

As we wandered along the beach and across the plain, we noticed that even among the great multitude of penguins and seals, there were individuals who stood out and caught our attention. Some were more playful or more inquisitive, or more regal than their peers. These were the animals that we stopped to observe and tried to capture on film.

Penguins at Play

On land, the King penguin gets around with an awkward waddling gait or, if there is snow, they use their wings and feet to toboggan along on their bellies. In the ocean Kings can swim at speeds of four to six miles per hour. Watching them scurry around never got old.

King Penguin Adventures

Saint Andrews Bay, South Georgia Island

Saint Andrews Bay is surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery on South Georgia Island. Just behind the bay is the jagged, ice covered peaks of Mount Skittle, which is almost 1,600 feet in elevation. The nearby Heaney and Cook glaciers, which are currently in retreat, have carved out a meadow filled valley and a small lake has formed with a glacial stream running down to the ocean.

Saint Andrews Bay is also South Georgia's largest penguin colony with more than 300,000 King penguins. In addition, the Southern Elephant seals and the Antarctic Fur seals also use this area as a major breeding site.

On the Beach

The black sand beach was a busy place with penguins and seals heading out into the ocean for a meal and returning to shore after their hunt. The average fur seal eats about one ton of krill per year.

King penguins usually dive to about 300 feet, but are capable of going as deep as 1,000 feet. They normally have round pupils in their eyes, but the pupils become square when they constrict and it is believed that this helps them see better in the dark ocean when they dive for food.

In the Meadow

We wandered across the meadow, which developed in the wake of the retreating glaciers. The ground was rocky with short grasses and the glacial stream that ran through the meadow was a gathering point for the seals and the penguins. The scenery was magnificent.

Along the Trail

We saw quite a few elephant seals basking in the sun. Considering the fact that on land they travel at a maximum speed of .5 mph, we were surprised at how far inland many had traveled.

Many of the King penguins were in the process of molting, or shedding their old feathers to make way for new ones. Penguins have about 100 feathers per square inch, which is significantly more than other birds. The high density of overlapping feathers helps keep the bird waterproof and also protects it from the wind.

From the Zodiac

Before heading back to the ship, we took a short ride along the coast in the zodiac. Saint Andrews Bay is a place we will not soon forget.

Grytviken, South Georgia Island

Grytviken, which was once a thriving whaling station with about 300 residents, now consists of an assortment of old decaying buildings, vintage whale processing equipment, rusted oil tanks, and abandoned whaling ships.

South Georgia Island has a population of 20 -30 seasonal residents, most of whom live in Grytviken or at the British Antarctic Survey Stations.

Whalers Church

The Norwegian Lutheran Church was built in 1913 from prefabricated parts that came by ship from Norway. It was not the most popular place for the men on the island to go, however, and the pastor complained, "Christian life unfortunately does not wax strong among whalers."