Monday, March 11, 2013

Quark Expedition- The White Continent!

Iceberg sculpture with blue glacier ice

More iceberg sculpture

Water and wind make beautiful sculpture of the snow and ice

Pristine beauty!

Land ahead!

Here are two chinstrap penguins

I wonder what the penguins think of this yellow creature!

After 2 days on the Drake Passage, even though it was mild, I am ready for land! No sailor am I!! After all, I am a Taurus, earth sign through and through. We have seen great iceberg sculptures on our way and throughout the water going to the South Shetland Islands.

Our first landing, on Zodiacs in groups of 10, is to an Island on the archipelago closest to Argentina. It is not really on the mainland of Antarctica proper but is considered part of Antarctica- the South Shetland Islands.

Here we see chinstrap penguins. The chinstrap penguin is a small species of penguin which is found inhabiting the rocky land and islands of the Antarctic Ocean. The chinstrap penguins name derives from the narrow black band under their heads.

Chinstrap penguins are one of the most easily identifiable of all of the penguin species, mainly due to the marking on their chins. Chinstrap penguins are also known to congregate together in their millions on small Antarctic islands. There are believed to be more than 7 million breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins.

Chinstrap penguins spend their lives hunting for krill and small fish and crustaceans in the surrounding waters, coming onto land to breed, rest and to escape the large ocean predators. Chinstrap penguins are carnivorous birds, and catch numerous species of fish,, crabs, shrimp, squid and krill in their strong beaks. Parents hunt for food in the ocean to take back to their chicks on the land.

Due to the fact that there are few large animals inhabiting the frozen South Pole, the chinstrap penguin has few natural predators. Leopard seals, killer whales whales and the occasional passing shark are the main predators of the chinstrap penguin.

Female chinstrap penguins lay 2 eggs in a nest made out of stones on one of the rocky Antarctic islands in November or December. The male chinstrap penguin and the female chinstrap penguin both take it in turns to keep the eggs warm, with the eggs hatching after about a month. The chicks stay in the nest until they are about a month old and are fed by both the female and male penguins.
We see many rookeries on the landings, more photos later.

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