Tay Head & Danger Islands

Jan 22, 2020 - National Geographic Explorer

Today we explored the north of the Weddell Sea. Traveling between Joinville and Dundee Island, we arrived at our morning destination, Tay Head, where we could stretch our legs while visiting some penguin colonies, right before enjoying the calm ocean by kayak. Our bravest explorers had the chance to jump into the frigid waters of the Weddell Sea during our famous polar plunge right before lunch.

In the afternoon, we traveled to the Danger Islands, an archipelago formed by six relatively small islands. Three of them are dedicated to Darwin and his famous expedition on board HMS Beagle: Darwin, Beagle, and Earle. August Earle was an artist on board HMS Beagle.

This small and remote archipelago, rarely visited by any vessel, is home to one of the biggest Adélie penguin colonies on the planet—750,000 pairs breed here in this Adélie hot spot. The spectacle that we experienced on our Zodiacs around Beagle Island was mesmerizing, as rafts of thousands of penguins surrounded us. Leopard seals patrolled the colonies, and giant petrels, skuas, gulls, and sheathbills fed on the remains of the dead penguins. Leopard seals de-skin the penguins by holding the prey with their mouths and whipping it back and forth in the air, smashing it on the water until the skin comes off. The remains are highly appreciated by other inhabitants of the islands. It was nature at its wildest! Certainly the abundant and unique wildlife of this remote location of Antarctica was worth the extra mile!

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About the Author

Javier Cotin


Javier 's passion for birds and nature began as a child exploring the Pyrenees mountains with his father. The mystery that surrounds the Lammergeier silhouette triggered his curiosity and interest towards wildlife. Javier studied biology in Spain and Norway, and was awarded his PhD at the University of Barcelona in 2012, titled “Birds as bioindicators of pollution in terrestrial and aquatic environments”. Within it he mainly studied the trophic ecology and pollution levels of land and waterbirds, with a particular focus on how human activities affect bird populations and dynamics. His work provided important information for conservation management of wetlands and terrestrial habitats and the species that utilize them.

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Rodrigo Moterani

Video Chronicler

Rodrigo Moterani was born in Brazil, where he still lives. After spending his teen years playing with camcorders and VCRs, Rodrigo ended up working in the field of television journalism and video production in his home country. He graduated with a degree in communications in 1997.

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