South Orkney Islands

Feb 23, 2019 - National Geographic Orion

This morning we awoke to the gentle rocking of the ship as we sailed east toward the South Orkneys, the skies above us grey with intermittent fog. After breakfast, National Geographic photographer Maria Stenzel presented a program on the scientific research she photographed in Antarctica, and we also found a few fin whales.

During the middle of the day, we hopped into our Zodiacs and rode the waves between Coronation and Monroe Islands in the South Orkneys. There were a stunning number of chinstrap penguins carpeting the lower slopes of the mountainous islands. There were fuzzy gray chicks, molting adults, and parents waddling up and down the hillsides to feed their hungry offspring. With this quantity of penguins, it was no surprise to find quite a large number of leopard seals patrolling the waters just below the colony. Many came near the Zodiacs to investigate the human guests, and we all got excellent views of their large heads and sinister, toothy smiles. A couple of Zodiacs even witnessed the seals hunting penguins, skinning them by beating them on the surface of the water, and devouring the juicy innards. Many giant petrels and storm petrels followed in the wake the seal's destruction to feed on the scraps. We also saw a handful of fur seals and crabeater seals.

Later in the day, we enjoyed a presentation on seals from naturalist Ian Bullock and another lecture on the sea by naturalist Conor Ryan.

After dinner we will have a Lightroom session for photographers and Antarctic trivia game for others.

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About the Author

Emily Mount

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Emily grew up in Boulder, Colorado and Pullman, Washington. Her love of nature began as a child during family vacations spent hiking, camping and exploring the mountains and deserts of the west. In contrast to her outdoors interests, Emily pursued an intensive young career as a classical violinist, culminating in degrees in history and music performance at the University of Washington.

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