Saturday, December 09, 2006
SIGNY (South Orkney Islands)
When I woke up on Thusday, that's all I could see: big ones, small ones, blue ones, grey ones; all shapes and sizes. In the distance I could see sunchine glacier as the Ernest Shackleton approached her first real Antarctic destination of the trip so far. Sometimes, as the ship approached the ice, there would be a flurry of black and white, as the little Adelie penguins scrambled into the water ahead of us.
The ship had to moor up out in the bay, but I was lucky enough to get ashore along with fellow Halley meteorologist, Dave, to set up a new weather station for the Signy Base Commander. As we brought the new cargo ashore, lying amongst it we spotted 5 or 6 giant elephant seals, huddling together for warmth as they malted. You could go right up to them without them batting an eyelid, but every now and then the friendly exterior was broken by a comedy roar that could be heard a mile away.
On day two we were givena tour of the colonies of Adelie and Chinstrap penguins nesing at the other side of the island by Signy's resident penguin expert, Mike.
The chinstraps were still guarding eggs, but these Adelies had already hatched tiny weeks old chicks. If you look closely, you can see a glimpse of the tiny grey bundles of fluff.