Antarctica 5: Neko Harbor Feb 2020

Neko Harbor is a small bay in the larger inlet of Andvord Bay on the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.  The harbor is surrounded by giant glaciers that are heavily crevassed and regularly calve.  There is a large colony of Gentoo penguins here with many fluffy chicks.  Not only are the chicks great fun to watch especially when they chase their parents for food, the scenery from the top of the hill is breathtaking.  This is exactly how I imagined the white continent of Antarctica in my mind.

DSCF2459Our ship, the Magellan Explorer, resting in Neko Harbor

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DSCF2428We can explore the island as long as we follow the red flag markings and stay out of the path of the wildlife.

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DSCF5511The third largest species of penguin after the emperor penguin and the king penguin is the gentoo penguin easily recognized by the wide white stripe on top of its head like a bonnet and its orange-red bill.  They remind me of one of those lunch-ladies at the cafeteria with brightly painted lips and white bonnets.

DSCF5431Gentoo penguins are monogamous and build nests from stones. Each time, two eggs are laid and they hatch after 35 days or so. The gentoo chicks have grey backs and white fronts and stay in the nests for another 30 days before joining other chicks in the colony forming creches.

 

DSCF5433Gentoo chick still in its fluffy down

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DSCF2440Hiking up to the lookout for panoramic views of Neko Harbor and surrounding glaciers.

DSCF5469It doesn’t look that steep going up the hill but it’s much harder than it looks.  The icy snow was very slippery and quite deep in places making the uphill climb very tiring.

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DSCF2457Calving of the heavily crevassed glacier

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DSCF5536Avalanche!

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DSCF5475Wait! Don’t forget me! I want some food too!!

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DSCF5450Chick begging the parent for food.  Penguin parents take turns going to sea to find food for themselves and their chicks.

DSCF5455Penguin parent feeding the chick a meal of digested krill.

DSCF5467I wonder how the parents recognize their offspring…turns out they identify them by their calls.

DSCF5520Gentoo penguins are monogamous and build nests from stones.  These stones are prized possessions and are carefully guarded.  Male penguins are seen to offer females ones stones for the collection.  Here a male penguin is choosing stones for the nest.

DSCF5521Female penguin inspecting the stones chosen for the nest.

DSCF5471The chick is almost the same size as the adult.  You can easily differentiate them by their feathers.

 

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DSCF2462Penguins like to come up to you and investigate a bit.  You can tell that this one is molting by the patches of feather on its back.

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DSCF5486Molting penguin with bits of down left.  Once all the waterproof feathers are out, it can go to sea to search for food.

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DSCF2469Brave passengers getting ready for the polar plunge.  I opted out as I didn’t want to risk having a heart attack!

DSCF2476Watching the brave souls do the polar plunge from my balcony

DSCF2477Zodiacs heading out in search of whales

DSCF5610Whale watching in Neko Habor

 

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DSCF5383Did you know that each humpback whale’s fluke (end of the tail) is unique like our fingerprint? Fascinating stuff!  Humpback whales can be traced around the world by photos of their flukes.

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DSCF2489Beautiful end to a beautiful day!

From Neko Harbor, we set sail towards Lemaire Channel and Booth Island.  Stay tuned!

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