Antarctica Adventure - 2002

smarts too and nature has certainly equipped them well for survival in the miserable conditions of the Antarctic as demonstrated by the fact that all species are thriving except for one, the Rockhoppers, which are being intensively studied to determine the reason for their precipitous decline. Conditions in Neko Harbor changed rapidly and often: lots of ice, then less ice, snow or no, blazingly clear light one minute and then shadows and mists the next, calm seas with little ripples on shore and then bigger rollers coming in. This all in the space of a couple of hours while we were on shore enjoying wildlife. Besides the penguins, we saw a Crabeater Seal (who does not eat crabs, but krill), a Weddell Seal, and some Leopard Seals that is the only seal species that eats penguins. All these pinnipeds were sleeping on shore or on ice floes close to shore and would merely raise a head when the Zodiac motor woke them up. Apparently, the inactivity of the leopard seals made the penguins fairly unconcerned because they kept up their parade to and from the beach. We had more respect for their tenacity and stamina when we attempted to climb up the hill through the same snow behind an abandoned Argentine refuge building which the birds are using asshelter. The climb was steep and I fell many times through the snow up to my knees. The constant falling and getting back up made the climb more arduous than the grade would suggest. At least the penguins don’t fall through. This tiny beach was certainly a marvelous and auspicious place to first set foot on Antarctica. Its atmosphere and terrain, as well as the wonderful wildlife viewing, were humbling and inspiring. Guess we’ve fallen in love with penguins.

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