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.  

King Penguin colony- St. Andrews Bay, South GeorgiaSt Andrews Bay 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.St Andrews Bay-largest concentration of biomass on the planet!@St Andrews Bay

This old fur seal has obviously weathered his share of trouble--an Orca attack may have left these vicious scars on his chest.

Scarred fur seal on St Andrews baeachSt Andrews Bay

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.King Penguins "reflect" in a glacial stream on the St Andrews Bay beachSt Andrews Bay

And at the shoreline, billions of penguin feathers curl into geometric curly-cuesPenguin feathers cover the St Andrews shorelineSt Andrews Bay Penguin Feathers

The birds are beautiful in there austere simplicity.  Their bodies almost look like they are covered in midieval chain mail armor.King Penguin backed by his flock, St Andrews BaySt Andrews Bay

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.Overlooking 150 million King Penguins at St. Andrews Bay on South GeorgiaSt Andrews Bay

One of the Oakum Boys stops to "chat" with usPauline Carr talks to an Oakum BoySt Andrews Bay And one seems to be telling its parents it's STILL hungry.Oakum Boy telling parents itSt Andrews Bay

While other King Penguin vocalize in a courtship display against a spectacular glacier backdrop.

The animals mass here to molt and mate.Preparing to mateSt Andrews Bay

And we saw some performing their ritualsPenguin MatingSt Andrews Bay

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. No rushing to change feet protecting the egg.St Andrews Bay

Even though they must be starved, they take their time passing the egg.Lining up fro the egg pass.St Andrews Bay

This is the most dangerous time during the incubation.  And there's no end to the other penguins who add their two cents!Always a nosy neighbor...St Andrews Bay

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.Completed egg transferSt Andrews Bay

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.Gold Harbour Elephant Seals harmonizingGold Harbour

Their flippers are quite amazing.Manni-peddi anyone?  Elephant seal flippersSt Andrews Bay

Compared to fur seal flippers.Fur seal flippersGold Harbour

And King Penguin feet.  These almost look prehistoric.King Penguin feetKing Penguin Feet

One elephant seal just chills as we move on.Sleeping Ellie at Gold HarbourGold Harbour

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.Sooty Albatross flying over Gold HarbourGold Harbour

Our last view is two elephant seals in water in their iconic nose-to-nose arch

Like old men singing at the bar, elephant seals love to get together and belt one out.Gold Harbour

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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