Salisbury Plain and Prion Island, South Georgia Island VIDEO
The long-anticipated moment has arrived: our arrival at the Antarctic Island of South Georgia. Last night we completed our remarkably smooth and comfortable voyage from the Falkland Islands to drop anchor in the Bay of Isles, near the northwest corner of South Georgia. There, on the long, low beach of Salisbury Plain, and extending up onto the adjacent hills, we find an estimated 60,000 breeding pairs of king penguins, the second-largest colony on South Georgia. Why waste any of the day? At 5:00 AM we were boarding our Zodiacs for the trip ashore, a chance to view and photograph the penguins, elephant seals, and fur seals in the early morning light. The sight and sounds defy description: hundreds of king penguins cavorting in the surf near our beach landing; thousands more standing in groups molting their old feathers in preparation for breeding, and then the colony, itself - tens of thousands more packed cheek to jowl. (Do penguins have jowls? I think not.) King penguins have a most unusual breeding system. Eggs laid last December and January hatched into small, gray chicks that became larger juveniles clothed in brown down that looks ever-so-much like a bearskin coat (or, some would say, like young sailors coated in the mixture of frayed rope fibers and tar called oakum), and these have survived the winter with infrequent meals from their parents. Now, these "oakum boys" stand in the colony in groups, waiting for a parent to return to feed them. Soon they will complete their development and exchange their brown down for a handsome coat of gray, white, and black feathers with the bright orange splash that will identify them as king penguins.
For the afternoon outing, we moved a very short distance to Prion Island. Read More>
Nov 15, 2015
National Geographic Explorer