• Day7

    Petermann Island

    February 16, 2020 in Antarctica ⋅ ☁️ 34 °F

    At 2:45 am I was rolled out of bed by the rocking of the ship, and I decided that today would be another bust. The weather was not cooperating. Nevertheless, by breakfast time, the crew was preparing for another day ashore at a place called Petermann Island. Since we Crab-Eater Seals were the last ones to go ashore on the previous excursion, we were at the top of the list this morning. We hit the beach and walked onto a landscape as foreign as that of another planet. The beach was covered with seals, Gentoo penguins, and birds. There was no snow on the gravelly beach, but the adjacent mountains were covered with pink snow. An expedition leader told me that the pink color came from a red alga that fed on the excrement of the penguins. We also saw in action something that had been described in a lecture. Penguins sit on their eggs for months at a time, not even leaving for a comfort break. Still, the penguins don't want to be covered in their own excrement, so they have developed the ability to shoot their penguin poo out about a meter. It is prodigious to see this action. The unfortunate neighbor who gets splattered by the poo takes it all in stride. In fact, every penguin is neighbor to another who must at some point relieve himself. Birds are splattered with each other's dung, mud, krill, and unassorted mess. The smell of the penguin colonies is horrendous. Imagine the odor of a densely inhabited chicken coop in which all of the birds have eaten nothing but fish for their entire lives. The stench is indescribable. All one can do is to take it all in until the nostrils acclimatize. The smell alone almost tempted Glenda to return to the ship as soon as she hit the beach. We smelled the penguins long before we ever saw one. The penguin is a foul fowl. The stink is deafening. We climed a broad expanse, carefully marked to avoid the sleeping fur seals, to top a ridge overlooking a small bay with a dozen of the most beautiful icebergs imaginable. The arctic blue is the most wonderful shade of azure I've ever seen. The overcast sky accentuated the blue color of the glaciers. Finally we made our way back to the Zodiac, looking forward to an additional cruise this afternoon.Read more