Here it is, the post you’ve all been waiting for… the one with penguins.
It’s the first question most people ask, so here we are – nice shots of Rothera wildlife.
Mostly we’re just surrounded by elephant seals. They lounge about on the sea ice and around station looking like giant slugs. Their lives seem to consist of lying on top of each other, shitting and fighting. Maybe it’s because they are getting all up in each others’ grills all the time – personal space and all that.
I’m not really sure how they hack being so close to each other, because they absolutely stink. Like, really stink. You can be standing 20 m away and smell their peculiar brand of rotting fish and seal poo if you’re downwind. Plus, they’re shedding their fur this time of year so whenever they move anywhere (which is pretty funny to watch too – imagine a really fat caterpillar that gives up after 7 seconds of activity cos it can’t be bothered) they leave a trail of brown goo with the consistency of engine oil. Except engine oil smells loads better.
‘Fighting’ apparently consists of rearing up and burping in each others’ faces. Occasionally one will lose a fight and get ostracised, or sent to the naughty corner to think about what it’s done. Last time I walked past these guys on the way to dinner, the one on the right had taken up residence face down in a puddle. Punishment indeed.
They’ve also got pretty specific places they like to sit. A bunch of them decided that the bridge from the main station to the runway was a great place to hang out. They probably like it cos it’s warm.
Problem being, of course, that we kind of need that road to get places, so a bunch of stinky seals being in the way is not exactly helpful.
In the end, we occupied the bridge with a giant machine, hoping that they’d find somewhere else to laze around all day, but they’re amazingly stubborn and have just cuddled up to the cat instead. It’s cute really.
Excitingly, last week in the South Cove across the runway we also saw orca (killer whales), supposedly closer to the station than they’ve ever been seen by anyone on base. It wasn’t quite like Blue Planet, but they did munch a seal and were clearly hunting something, because the birds that were swarming around them were definitely not just hoping for seal scraps. In all likelihood there was probably something like krill below the surface that both the whales and birds were after.
It’s not every day you see orca, so we were all pretty excited. Nearly everyone on station rushed out to catch a glimpse. Winter station leader Jess managed to get a much better shot than I did:
Last but not least, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The penguins.
To be honest, there’s not that many here – only the odd one or two. The only species I’ve seen here are Adélies, so they’re pretty little (but also dead silly, it’s great).
Sometimes they hang out around the point a little further from base, but generally not so close to us. The other night I spotted one chilling on an ice floe with a shag (no, it’s not a flying penguin, sorry). They were probably having loads of bird bants.
Having said that though, I did manage to snap this absolute diva down by the aircraft hangar on the way back to base the other day:
I got a proper display of penguin shimmying and belly sliding around on the snow. They walk like they’re ready for a bar brawl (y’know, the three-carpets-under-the-armpits cockney swagger), except they’re way too cute for that. As demonstrated by its clear caution about crossing the road (understandable really).
Hol’ tight for the video evidence…