Antarctica 10: Half Moon Island Feb 2020

Not far from Deception Island is Half Moon Island of the South Shetland Islands.  Half Moon has several cobble stone beaches and many igneous rock outcrops.  Part of the island has been taken over by the Argentine Antarctic summer station Camara.  There is a large colony of Chinstrap penguins here and we were told to beware of the penguin access highways which the penguins use to go back and forth into the water.  The Chinstrap penguin is so called by the narrow black line that goes around its chin making it look as if it’s wearing a black helmet.  They have red eyes and pink feet and are around 75cm tall.  Even though they look cute with their little helmets, they are in fact the most aggressive species of penguin!  Unlike the king penguins, they generally keep the same mate from year to year.  Perhaps that is why they are so populous because they bypass the time-consuming mating rituals and get right to work.  The males usually arrive at the colony about 5 days before the females to prepare the nest.  Two eggs are laid and the male and female takes turn incubating the eggs.  The chicks have a  uniform brownish-grey color.  Chinstrap penguins seem to be always in a hurry waddling here and there accompanied by their loud gregarious calls.  The best part of these Antarctic landings is to have the opportunity to observe and photograph these amazing creatures go about their business.

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DSCF6352Old whaling dory near our landing site at Half Moon Island

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DSCF6353One lone Gentoo hiding amongst the Chinstraps

DSCF6348The Chinstrap penguin is so called by the narrow black line that goes around its chin making it look as if it’s wearing a black helmet.

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DSCF2749Our red flag marked guided path crosses a penguin highway so we must move very slowly and avoid disturbing any penguins.

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DSCF6271Molting penguin in the back looking like a pillow exploded on it

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DSCF6248Adult chinstrap feeding its chick

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DSCF6318Having a bit of a squabble here.  They squawk at each other and then chase each other around sometimes even biting the flippers

DSCF6311Chinstraps may look cute with their little helmets, but they are actually the most aggressive species of penguin

DSCF6307Ganging up on a small molting penguin

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DSCF6337Brave little chinstrap unafraid of becoming dinner

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DSCF6327Gentoo penguin on the left; Chinstrap penguin on the right

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In the blink of an eye, my time in Antarctica has come to an end and it is time to board the flight from King George Island back to Punta Arenas in southern Chile.  Finally all 7 continents visited!  It was truly a trip of a lifetime and I’m glad I decided to come.  I feel so fortunate that I was able to do this cruise right before the entire world shut down due to the Covid19 pandemic.  Who knows when normal travel can resume and who knows when people will want to take a cruise again without the worry of being stranded on the ship with no end in sight.  To top it all off climate change is quickly affecting our planet and who knows how long all this ice will exist….

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