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Day 17- Cuverville Island, the Gerlache Straight and Port Charcot
We start our day at the Gentoo penguin colony on Cuverville Island, about 123 miles from Deception. From the boat the landing is splotched with pink--telltale penguin signs, the result of eating all those pink krill.
And as we land, I find the rocks underwater beautiful. Obviously, not a whole lot of geology has rubbed off on me--but I do love rocks. And I find looking at them through the water prism irresistible. I actually think these may top the underwater rocks I found at Glacier National Park.
The gentoo colony is full of activity. These are beautiful birds with the bright orange mouths. Some are just enjoying the area and eating snow.
The males are busy constantly adding rocks to their mate's nest. I don't think anyone knows what makes a rock desirable. Some are tiny.
Some are quite large.
Scientists did a study painting rocks at one nest in a colony. In just a few days the marked rocks were totally dispersed among many nests. Seems penguins not only "find" great rocks to bring their mate, they also covet and steal rocks from other nests. Go figure. The bottom line is their are penguins on nests everywhere. Some roosting on eggs...
And some penguins are feeding their baby chicks.
The chicks never seemed filled up. With two babies, Gentoo need mothers and fathers to satiate the little rascals.
When the Gentoos call out, they stretch their necks and we see the orange color goes all the way down their gullet.
And, of course, I'm taken with their unique feet.
They follow very specific trails up and down the hills--penguin paths. We have to be careful not to block or get in their way. Again, they are marked with pink from the krill.
And we have a wonderful full moon that shows up in the clouds as we tour the area by zodiac.
The ice in the surrounding waters is beautiful. (We expect to see even more spectacular sights on our midnight zodiac tour tonight.)
And we have our first leopard seal encounter.
These are bold, powerful predators extraordinaire. Only the elephant seal is larger and only the orca is more dangerous. They have powerful canine teeth and feed mostly on penguins and other seals but they have attacked and killed divers. This guy swam with us for over a half hour and kept coming up to the zodiac, checking us out.
Moving on, we head off to Port Charcot on Booth Island, the western edge of the Lemaire Channel. We cruise though Gerlache Straight on the way and look for whales.
We find a mother humpback and her calf.
But that's not all-we watch as they are harassed by a pack of orcas. Best guess from our guides is the orcas were teaching their young how to hunt or maybe just practicing pack tactics.
It probably didn't end well for the humpback calf.
We move on to Booth Island, which forms the western edge of the Lemaire Channel. We arrive as the sun is going down.
Hiking on shore, we get our first look at the massive bergs...
As we walk to the top edge of the island.
And look over the massive ice bergs in the setting sun.
Taking to the zodiacs, we begin our late night tour. We find a leopard seal stretched our on the ice as we start out.
It's amazing how much light there is at 10:30 at night. Our ship, Ioffe Akademik, is framed by an iceberg.
The zodiacs against the bergs help show how massive these hunks of ice really are.
Cocoa and brandy await us when we get back to the ship.
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