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Category Archives: Cuverville Island
Today we pulled into Cuverville Island for our first stop of the day and I had a chance to sit down for an hour or so and watch the local skua population wreak havoc on the Gentoo Penguins. Skuas are a large brown bird related to the Northern Jaegers that constantly prowl the periphery of penguin colonies awaiting the opportunity to swoop in and steal an egg. Despite their scavenging habits and cutthroat attitude to cute cuddly penguins there is something charming about skuas. They are absolutely fearless and will wander up and stare you straight in the eye, but it always occurs to me that they are sizing you up for a meal “Are you dead yet? Can I eat you?” They also congregate around research stations where they virtually become pets despite their bad manners and killer instincts. If they are pirates then they are certainly the “Captain Jack Sparrow” kind of pirate with a bit of the rouge mixed in with a lot of charisma. The ones I watched today were happily sitting amidst the penguins which seemed unconcerned despite the various empty eggs around the colonies that had fallen victim to the rapacious birds. The skuas disdained the occasional penguin pecks to the extent that many pairs were happily consummating their relationship amongst the throng of tomorrow’s food.
Woke at the crack of dawn.. but dawn is less of a crack and more of a gaping chasm here in Antarctica and lasts for hours …despite this I caught at least the first half of dawn when I dragged myself out of bed at 4:00 to jump in a small rubber boat to charge around icebergs. Minutes later I’m hanging from a crane 25m above the water and descending into the cold ice waters with seals, penguins and whales on my mind.
The first stop was Orne Harbour where I cruised past chinstrap penguins and leopard seal…then a quick dash up to Cuverville Island to see the largest Adelie penguin colony on the Antarctic Peninsula, and finally a landing and hike at Neko Harbour. The last is a particular favorite of mine with a churning glacier descending into a tranquil Bay populated by Gentoo penguins. The Glacier is fast and furious …by glacial standards, and drops icebergs frequently. Today a HUGE carving happened that sent a wave right up over the beach. I was onshore and though I avoided the worst we lost a bit of gear and I spent the rest of the landing wet up to my waist. Still …a great landing. I blazed the trail for the long walk up to
the ridge and then to the next bay where there were about seven Weddel seal asleep. I managed top get 20 minutes sitting alone on the beach listening to the Weddels sing in thier sleep accompanied by the trumpetting of Gentoo penguins.
A beautiful place to be working.