A Long Journey - Part 3 - Celebrity Antarctica
Updated: Apr 19
This post is the third in a series of four (maybe 5) posts about our Long Journey to the bottom of the world and back. The first post takes you from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia Argentina at the southern most tip of South America. It is mainly comprised of Sea Day photos and Photos from our day in Tierra Del Fuego (Land of Fire), the UNESCO site which is part of Patagonia. The second post begins at Cape Horn, travels across the Drake Passage to Antarctica, through the Schollart Channel, Paradise Bay & around Elephant Island, where we saw Glaciers, Icebergs, Snow, Big Sky and very COLD water!
This post will skip some sea days in our journey, because you already know what those are like, and jump right over to the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas, in Spanish). The Falkland Islands are an Archipelego, which is a chain or group of islands scattered in the Ocean or other body of water. The Falklands are in the Argentine Sea, or South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Argentina. There is drama and conflict surrounding who claims them. Currently after a ten week war in 1982 Great Britain has control. However, Argentina maintains to this day that the islands are Argentine territory, while Great Britain says that their territory has been a Crown Colony since 1841. Most inhabitants are of Brittish decent. You can learn more about the war at Wikipedia. We just went there to see PENGUINS!
We tendered to shore & docked at Port Stanley. A tender is a life boat lowered from the ship, and used for the day, to transport guests from the place at sea, where the ship is anchored to the shore side town. You will have to tender in locations that don't have a pier big enough to accomodate your ship. This is one of the BIG benefits of small ship cruising - you can dock right at the pier in small town ports of call. This port had a nice visitor center with restrooms and a wind break structure for waiting in line for the tender later..
Our group was shuffled off to our mini bus that was already covered in mud! There was more than one bus at the loading area, and I noticed that one of the others had much cleaner windows.. I think I would have actually cleaned my own window if I had something with me to do so.
Sometimes the bus ride can be interesting.. But you can see that we weren't going to get many scenery pics this time. Instead the bus driver (tour guide) made an announcement. She asked over the bus audio system "Does anyone feel offended if I talk about the war?" no one objected so she began...
We drove out to the Penguin Rookery location on Darwin Road. It became apparent why the bus and windows were so dirty. It was raining just a little, and we were on bumpy dirt roads.
We learned that the Brits in Stanley really are FULL of themselves. They raise the best sheep, that yield the best wool. Their army tricked the Argentine Army forcing their surrender. They have the best medical care, with the best hospitals and doctors. They have the best education system and every student citizen has the opportunity to go to college in Great Britain, at the Government's expense. They even get spending money in addition to dorm accomodations and flights to and from the UK.
Yep - that's the edge of the road that you see in that pic above. After a bit we were glad we had not selected the ALL DAY JEEP tour. 30 minutes of bumpy dirt roads was quite enough for us... I thought to myself - this is how I envisioned going to the Outback would be like... Let me know in the comments if you agree.
The tour guide also proudly shared the tax rate that they pay for all of this perfection, and I neglected to make note of it. But, I do remember that $15,000 pounds was the one and only trigger from minimum to maximum tax rate - WOW!
Soon the road dead ended at the sea and we were let off the bus at Bluff Cove. At this point I had figured out that I left my drawstring bag at our excursion meeting place, the theater on the ship. So I had no jacket! It wasn't that cold, but it was WINDY! My fabulous husband loaned me his jacket for the day!
LOOK - THERE THEY ARE!
of Bluff Cove Rookery
Right about in the center of the photo image above there is a white flag stuck in the ground. You will see these throughout my pictures. These flags were placed along the coast to indicate how close we were allowed to get to the penguins. However - NO ONE TOLD THE PENGUINS not to come on our side of the flags. Interestingly, penguins have no land based preditors - so they are not afraid of humans!
We walked along the shore for a close up view of the King Penguins first. Our presence doesn't phase them. In the penguin huddle are the Daddy Penguins and either eggs or babies. The offspring or egg is held on the father's feet, and kept warm by the hem of his featherd coat.
At first you are just in AWE of being there... Then as you stand and look closely you start to notice what Celia Garland had taught you in the seminar, on the Celebrity Infinity Cruise Ship.
The coat of the young sea bird is not yet black, but toasty brown, down feathers. The chick can't go into the water until it gets it's waterproof, adult feathers. So he/she stands with the father waiting for the delivery of food from the sea by his mother. The father will teach him/her to eat from the Mother's gullet when she returns. The father will stand together with his chicks until they are big enough to go exploring on land.
The pair can move away from the huddle as the offspring grows and is able to stand alone with enough feathers to keep warm. As we stood watching this huddle of penguins we began to see babies peeking out from underneath. Watch the video below to the very end to see a cute little FACE!
At Bluff Cove there are Gentoo and King Penguins. You can tell them apart by the coloring of their feathers and feet. It seemed like they generally segregated themselves - but in this video you can see that that's not entirely true. In this group of primarily Kings there are a few Gentoos. Here is a handy link to more info about penguins in the Antarctica region.
There was another huddle of Gentoo Penguins in the distance so we walked over there. The ground was strangely bumpy..
I guess this is a the certain place you have to go if you are a Gentoo Chick who is going to MOLT their baby feathers! Just look at the mess of feathers on the ground. You can see that they were ALL on our side of the white flags!
They must go there to get it over with! Perhaps they can help each other by grooming and picking areas that they can't reach themselves. Molting makes you tired and then you have to take a nap.
In the molt phase every single baby feather is replaced with an adult waterproof feather so that you can go in the water to hunt for your own food. Until you are done molting your Mother or Father has to bring you food from the sea. When you are a Gentoo who is about 3 months old you can start learning to swim and hunt.
The top right penguin in the photo above is partially molted, as you can see remaining baby feathers around his neck area that is hard to reach.. omg - looks itchy to me! Keep working buddy this too shall pass..
This little fella looks almost DONE molting - and kind of proud, don't you think? The Gentoo Mothers and Fathers leave the chicks behind in groups while they both retrieve food from the sea.
Anyone want to DANCE?
We saw some other birds native to the region. Is this a red billed gull? it doesn't look quite like any images I could find. It has a thick and bumpy bill. Comment with your ideas.
There was a family or so of Upland Geese wandering about. I wonder what the earthy bumps are. They look like piles of peat moss, but are more solid. Comment if you know - I could not find anything on Google about the bumpy earth. I mean it really trips up the clumsey penguins. But they choose it anyway.
The tour guide on the bus told us that they were concerned about their "cracked earth" and had called in experts from Great Britain to assess the situation and suggest remedies. Weird, right? Looks like it needs WATER to me.
After seeing all of the Penguins in this area we decided to walk over to another area we had been directed to by the bus driver. She said we would be picked up there. By now I was hoping to find a potty!
Celia had taught us that the adolescent birds get "HANGRY". She warned that if we saw one howling to ready our cameras in video mode. So that's exactly what I did when this chick called out. Apparently he could hear his mother coming over the hill. Reminded me of the Paul Simon song "Mother and Child Reunion" Is only a moment away...
Here is a close up of the chick taking the regurgitated food from the Mother's Gullet.
We wandered on down the coast to a series of buildings that housed toilet rooms, a gift shop, and a place where they were serving complimentary tea and various pastries. They even had a Gluten Free option for ME! Apparently we didn't photograph it. There was an outdoor area to sit, and another beachey area of penguins nearby.
Penguin walpaper in the toilet room.
A fabulous shawl knitted from their special wool adorned the check out counter in the gift shop.
We stayed for a bit but didn't want to miss the "beach penguins". They were the same two species, Gentoo and King, but - at the beach!
At the beach we caught a couple penguins going in and out of the water.. which we had not yet seen.
I swear they were posing for pictures.. don't you think?
There were mostly Gentoos at the Beach.
They are beautiful sea-birds.
At the beach we found one King Penguin chick just about done Molting!
When I started looking at my photos more closely I could see more. It's just that after a while you go on Penguin OVERLOAD.
I guess I never thought about where would a penguin sleep? Since there are no land based preditors - they sleep on land, of course.
What a mess! I wonder what it is... and if it has anything to do with the Penguin Colony.
My Grandson knows all about penguins! They are his favorite!
He asked us for a "Macaroni Penguin" - but we never saw one. We did find a stuffed Macaroni Penguin to bring him. Apparently you can adopt a Penguin HERE. We may just have to do that!
The Penguins were definately a highlight of our trip! Once we returned to Port Stanley we took a quick Architectural walking tour and stopped for a coffee.
Head on over the Belles Architecture's Blog to see MORE of the cute buildings.
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