"" Writer's Wanderings: Revisiting Antarctica - Penguins and Seals Too!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Revisiting Antarctica - Penguins and Seals Too!

Paradise Harbour, our next stop along the cruise of the Antarctic Peninsula, must have been named when the sun was shining brightly. Our day there gave us all sorts of weather and it changed faster than Cleveland weather does. But when the sun shone, the white snow was almost blinding.

Waterboat Point inside the harbor was the site of a Chilean station. It was manned, we were told, by new recruits--an initiation of sorts. Maybe Paradise Harbour was more a satirical name coined by the recruits who had to spend time there when the weather turned ugly.

Gentoo penguins were all over the place. No one told the penguins to stay behind the orange guide ropes that visitors were to follow. They merrily shuffled in and out among us. We had to always look behind us if we were going to step back. You never knew if you had one tailing you. The doors to the buildings in the station had to be kept closed to be sure the birds wouldn't get inside and make a cozy nest.

At the Chilean station there was a small gift shop and the opportunity to send a postcard stamped from Antarctica. Unfortunately the line was way too long. There was to much to see to waste it standing in line.

Again our time on shore was entertaining but it was also a time to see all the sides of nature. As we were heading back to our zodiac, we passed by a skua, a large brown bird that preys on the penguin young. It had found its meal for the day and was enjoying it.

Aboard ship, as we waited for all the other groups to have their turn on land, we watched other denizens of the cold south, seals. There were basically two kinds there: leopard seals who were meat eaters and crab seals who fed off of sea food. Two seals, said to be crab eaters, were lolling on a large piece of floating ice and posing nicely for pictures when all of a sudden a penguin popped out of the water and landed on the other end of the ice. He waddled past a little rise in the iceberg and suddenly spotted the seals. He jumped straight up in the air and did a 180 while airborne. As soon as he landed, he flopped to his belly and slid like a shot into the water again. Apparently, if you are a penguin, you don't stick around long enough to discern whether the seal is a leopard or a crab eater.

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