“And now, the time has come, that I must face my final penguin.”
Yes, the final shore excursion of our Antarctic adventure took place this morning in the sweeping bay called Brown Bluff, so named because of the distinctive brown volcanic rock that dominates the beachhead.
As the sturdy Zodiacs swept us ashore, we could see that the colony of mainly Gentoo penguins, with a fare sprinkling of Adelie penguins mixed in, climbed far up the steep slopes of the eroded cliffs. It is amazing that these dumpy little birds can make their way from nest to sea and shore to nest with such determined and sure-footed steps. A large group of the Antarctic’s most common birds stood watching us as keenly as we were watching them. On gingerly stepping forward and through the scattered nests we were delighted to see that many of the penguins on the pebbly nests were mothers, many showing off their ridiculously cute offspring. Skuas and other airborne predators were also watching as they swooped and rushed through the air above looking for a snack of Gentoo or Adelie chick. But such is the Antarctic.
This may have been our final landing of the expedition, but it was not the last event. Immediately before lunch an announcement came over the ship’s PA proclaiming a (voluntary) “Polar Plunge” off the Zodiac platform and head-first into the sub-zero waters of the seething bay was about to happen. Many made the heroic dip. All survived.
The afternoon was filled with explanations from the assistant expedition leaders Alex and Emily as to the procedures to expect on parting from the ship in Ushuaia. Many concerned minds were put to rest by the detailed and comprehensive plan for the departure day that the Lindblad team had concocted. A couple of presentations followed lunch giving us even more insight into the Great White Continent. Kayvon delved into the world of “Antarctic Oceanography,” and later Jess discussed “Living and Working on Sea-Ice” and the harsh realities of scientific research in Antarctica.
Now, the bow has turned to North, the penguins will be left in peace for a while, and we all can relax and mull over just how lucky we are to have been to such an incredible place. We will miss you Antarctica. We will never forget you.