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Day 10- St. Andrews Bay and Gold Harbour
We take the zodiacs in to our landing at St. Andrews Bay. We're excited to be here--it's the largest King Penguin colony on South Georgia. That means over 150 million birds are here to reproduce, tend chicks, and support their Oakum Boys (the fluffy brown bowling pins we see all over the colony) until they can go to sea themselves.
The beach is alive. Flying birds, fur seals, elephant seals, reindeer and over masses of King Penguins create one of the most dense concentrations of biomass on the planet. We are awed by the spectacle.
This old fur seal has obviously weathered his share of trouble--an Orca attack may have left these vicious scars on his chest.
Elephant seals play a teeter-totter game on the beach. We've seen this behavior often and it doesn't seem to be overly aggressive.
Going into the penguin colony we get a get shot on King Penguins reflected in a glacial stream.
And at the shoreline, billions of penguin feathers curl into geometric curly-cues
The birds are beautiful in there austere simplicity. Their bodies almost look like they are covered in midieval chain mail armor.
At the top of the hill we have an honest Nat Geo view--this same location was on the cover of one of their Nat Geo Travel magazines.
One of the Oakum Boys stops to "chat" with us And one seems to be telling its parents it's STILL hungry.
While other King Penguin vocalize in a courtship display against a spectacular glacier backdrop.
The animals mass here to molt and mate.
And we saw some performing their rituals
And then there is the famous egg passing. We witness one event. It sometimes takes a long time to change incubating feet.. Maybe because the parents are inexperienced, or maybe because after standing tending the egg for long periods during the 55 day incubation cycle, the current "incubator" wants to make sure of the other parent's skill.
Even though they must be starved, they take their time passing the egg.
This is the most dangerous time during the incubation. And there's no end to the other penguins who add their two cents!
Once the transfer is successful, the first penguin can go to sea to feed. Then they spend the next almost two years raising the chick before it starts anew.
Back to the ship we move to Gold Harbour. The riches here are the gold color of the cliffs in the sunset. Our treasure is the animals...elephant seals again socializing.
Their flippers are quite amazing.
Compared to fur seal flippers.
And King Penguin feet. These almost look prehistoric.
One elephant seal just chills as we move on.
We get a good look at the Sooty Albatross here. One flies overhead as it heads for the nest in the cliffs high above the beach.
Our last view is two elephant seals in water in their iconic nose-to-nose arch
Leaving the east end of South Georgia, we head south. Tomorrow we will cross 60 degrees south, into the political Antarctic region. More lectures from our great resident experts for the next two days as we head for Elephant Island.
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