Thursday, 14 November 2013

Penguins Ahoy!

Penguins Ahoy! (11th November)

Penguins to my left, penguins to my right - everywhere we look there are penguins in sight! And boy are they awesome!! Finally, Andrew and I have started filming critters...

We now have open water at the back of Pelagic and can get the zodiac out and about. Goudier Island (home of Port Lockroy) still remains land-locked but we can at least access Jougla Point where the penguins emerge from foraging at sea to begin their mile-long trek across snow and ice to their future nest sites. It really is a sight to behold as thousands of penguins leap out of the water and shake themselves off before waddling onwards. Sometimes they greet each other here, occasionally, they even mate. Mostly they are just keen to get on with their foot journey however. The sound is tremendous. Firstly, you hear splashing as the penguins near the shore, then a plod as they land on snow. Then there is the pitter-patter of tiny feet as thousands of pairs of webbed toes make their way across the snow. Sometimes there is a bit of chitter chatter too. We are being cautious not to alter the penguins' behaviour by getting too close to them. Andrew even went alone at one point so as to fit into a one-man crevice in the rock. I took the opportunity to sit on a deck chair on a snowy outcrop above with Pelagic crew, Dave and Bertie, and Tudor. I feel incredibly privileged to escape and enjoy such magical moments as this and am left with a huge sense of appreciation not only for penguins but this dynamic landscape in which they adapt to survive. For anyone who is concerned that I am relaxing too much, I can assure you that I will be spending the evening logging - any excuse to spend more time looking at those penguins!

Dave and I went for a quick recce in the zodiac this afternoon. It is evident that we are still trapped in this channel as sea ice blocks all our exits. Saw lots more penguins scattered around the coast, including some that looked like adventurous mountaineers scaling a very steep slope. They can't possibly be nesting there!! We also took time to admire the icebergs that litter the bay - they are truly beautiful with deep blues that make them sparkle and stand out from an otherwise white backdrop. Some of them have formed what looks like gothic carvings around the edge, turrets and edges that feel like giant ice cathedrals. It was great to speed across the water, feeling the salty air on our faces and the water slap us up and down in our seats. Dave also taught me to drive - from a safety perspective this means in the unlikely event he or Bertie go overboard I can turn the boat around and pick them up. Can't wait for more ice to open up so we can explore further!

Tudor and Helen have moved into Port Lockroy now. They are keen to get things ready for the arrival of the other post office workers and, of course, visitors to Port Lockroy - when eventually the sea ice clears sufficiently for people to be able to get in. Although we feel trapped, it is fortunate that we sailed south so early that we were able to access this area ahead of the ice. It has meant we have witnessed some remarkable penguin behaviour already as they wouldn't normally have to walk so far to feed. The seals are also gathering around their point of entrance to the water, a sign of the dramas we hope to witness. I am still not sure how I will feel watching my favourite animals being devoured though!

Before we left the UK, many people asked us what we would be able to eat during our trip. Like them, I envisaged tins of spam, sweetcorn, rice and other canned basics. I have to say, we have eaten very well so far thanks to the Pelagic team. We started the voyage with two dead lambs strung on deck. They arrived, perhaps like us, a little weather-beaten but well-salted and frozen through! There have also been good stocks of fresh fruit and vegetables (all chilled nicely in the fore-deck) and virtually any cook's ingredient imaginable. We have enjoyed mushroom risotto, curries, soups, tortillas, steaks and even a Sunday roast so far thanks to the cooking skills of the crew :) For those of you who know me, don't worry I have been embracing the washing up side of things so as to do my fair share of the work but not to inflict anyone with my... erm... unique cooking ability.

Gosh, I just cannot get over the fact that I am actually here! As I am writing, I glance out of the window and see four penguins walking past the yacht tentatively
On the sea ice. It seems they are as wary as we are about crossing this surface but are truly dedicated to return to their future nest sites. I could watch these entertaining, fascinating birds for days. Just as well really. On that note, better get on with the logging...

Apologies for lack of pictures with this one - I seem to have lost my phone... hopefully it's just in one of many pockets and not in the drink...

1 comment:

  1. How exciting to see the penguins all around. I journeyed down that way in January this year...Port Lockroy and Jougla point were both amazing. We marvelled during our ten days, how everyday got better and better...awesome! was just not a good enough word to describe it, but it was the best we could do. Is it possible to get a picture of you all and what role/job you are doing? This would assist us back here in 'the real world", to associate the tales told of each person to that person. Really enjoying the blog to date...keep em coming in the Penguin Post.