Our last day in South Georgia started at Cooper Bay, home to South Georgia’s largest Chinstrap Penguin colony, under sunny skies. In addition to the Chinny’s, Gentoos, Kings & Macaronis also nest here. Sadly, no landing today, just a zodiac cruise.
Chinstraps are brush-tailed penguins who get their name from the black band at the bottom of their head. They have very strong little legs and pink feet and I think they always look like they’re smiling. They’re the 2nd most numerous penguin species in the world, with the macaronis being the 1st.
They aren’t too big, they average 28 inches tall and weigh 6.5 to 11 lbs. I didn’t get too many pictures of them this day; it’s hard sometimes in the zodiac to get decent pictures, but we saw more of them in Antarctica.
A curious gentoo and some elephant seals who are much more interested in sleeping. The gentoo looks as though he’s trying to figure out what these strange creatures in zodiacs are…
You can see here how the lush tussock grass has grown in where once a glacier sat. A stark contrast to the terrain we’ll see around the corner.
A kelp gull
Everyone remembers the line from “Yankee Doodle” – “he stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni”. According to Wikipedia, “Macaroni” was “a mid-18th century style in England with flamboyant and excessive ornamentation”. The early English sailors saw a resemblance in these penguins, with their bright yellow crest, and named them macaronis.
They are one of the 6 (or 8 depending on the taxonomy) crested penguin species. Adults are 7-14 lbs and they’re about 28 inches tall. And, moulting or not, they always have crazy hair.
Did I mention it wasn’t sunny anymore?
Back on the ship for lunch, we set sail for Drygalski Fjord on the southern tip of South Georgia. 1 mile wide and 7 miles long, it’s studded with glaciers tumbling down to the sea.
They opened up the bow of the ship (normally crew only) and served up “adult” hot chocolate as we cruised up the fjord.
Arriving at the end of the fjord
Despite the poor visibility, the colour of the water was stunning.
Glacial ice is blue because the air has been squeezed out by the weight of the snow and ice above; less air means more blue. Typically, this means the bluer the ice the older the glacier.
As much as I love seeing penguins on land, there’s something about a random penguin (this one’s a gentoo) on a piece of ice that always makes you smile.
The glacier at the head of the fjord. The captain got us pretty close, our expedition leader was pretty excited about that.
With that, the captain spun the ship around and we sailed out, on our way to Antarctica. It’s too bad the weather wasn’t better, but it was still spectacular; it actually gave it a surreal quality. Our geologist was so excited he could barely talk.