Wednesday, March 6, 2013

St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia..........

January 20, 2013 - St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia Island
Good visibility, partly sunny
Wind NE 2; Sea: smooth; Air Temp. 5C (41F)

Mary and Paula dressed in elegant expedition finery ready to explore this beautiful place.

We had our reasons for wearing grins.
The sun was shining, the winds were light, and 
who wouldn't smile when surrounded by an estimated
150,000 breeding pairs of King penguins. Of the world's  
2 million pairs total, 25% live on South Georgia Island, 
and St. Andrews Bay is the largest colony.

Penguins are exceedingly charismatic, flightless birds.
Although most at home in the sea, they are still dependent 
on land for breeding and moulting. With their waddling gait 
they travel inland, up steep hills and across rugged terrain 
to their colonies.


Also living here are 6,000 Southern elephant seal cows 
during the pupping season making it one of the 
largest seal breeding beaches on the island. 
The 3 ton, 15 feet long blubbery 'beachmaster' males, 
fight one another to gain large harems of females.  
The competition is brutal as this is their only chance 
to sire the next generation.

Elephant seal cows.


Fur seal pups.


 Several of the group sailed off in sea kayaks as water conditions were perfect. 
Arriving on the beach we immediately knew we were in 
for a great morning.


King penguins were visible as far as the eye could see,
Elephant seal cows mixed in doing little but basking 
and grunting.


Most penguin chicks were old enough to be 
left in creches away from their parents.



Lots of chats going on between the adults - maybe three moms discussing their children.


When we climbed higher up the hillsides the views 
were astounding, and the river made by the melting 
ice was obviously a favorite gathering place.



At the river, swimming lessons and wallowing in 
refreshing running water were on the daily list of
activities to pass the time....and everyone 
seemed to play well together.




It was here we were tagged by a chick whom we named 
Ms. Georgia. She left her boring pebble willingly 
and decided to join us on our stroll.


Checking out Paula's gloves and Wellies for 
herself, she then allowed a friend to join in. Petting 
wildlife here is not permitted, however they are allowed 
to come to you which the curious young chicks often do. 
It's a wonderful feeling to have one come so close of
its own accord.



Ms. Georgia later introduced us to more of her friends, 
these a little older, and a bit scruffy looking, 
as they were already moulting their brown baby 
fluff and preening sleek new waterproof feathers.


She followed us silently for some time.....we wished 
so much we could stay and play, touch her soft coat 
and really get to know her. 


It was noisy and smelly here of course.


Southern giant petrels with wingspan up to 6.8 ft., 
lifespan 26+ years.
Male and female look alike but there are two different 
adult plumage forms - above is known as dark morph, 
below is the white morph.



An up close wildlife experience not to be 
missed - Elephant seals, King penguin chicks 
and juveniles.



We were sad to leave late morning but fortunately had 
been permitted to spend several hours to enjoy this 
exceptional landing and get some great photos.


Stunning South Georgia's mountains reflected in the pool. 
Was one of these chicks Ms. Georgia?  Hard to tell because 
they all look so alike.........but I like to think that's 
her in the center facing the camera for her last portrait 
as we said goodbye!

15 comments:

  1. Love the first photo - Mary and Paula posing with just a few of their closest friends haha!
    Seriously though, what an awesome sight!
    Judy xx

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  2. Ah, Mary! What a fantastic post - and what a wonderful opportunity. I have always been so fond of penguins, and the closest I got were to see those at the New England Aquarium in Boston. Thank you so much for the photos. Amazing! And I had no idea that the elephant seals were that big.

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    Replies
    1. Judy, the elephant seal bulls are MUCH larger still - 3000 kg opposed to about 300 kg for these females! If you look back here - http://abreathoffreshair-mary.blogspot.com/2012/01/magical-macquarie-island-part-i.html you can see them in action when I was in the sub-Antarctic islands in 2011.

      Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate you taking time to comment.
      Hugs - Mary

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  3. How awesome is this. This is an experience of a lifetime~! It must have been just astounding. Love this. The penguins are just so cute ~

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  4. Amazing photos, I bet it was really hard to leave Miss Georgia behind. Nature at its best! Chel x

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  5. What an amazing experience. We have been watching three programmes about penguins, lately, and they have been fascinating. The shots were taken by cameras inside a penguin model that could move, they were extraordinary!

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  6. Oh my goodness, what an exciting adventure. Sweet Georgia was indeed the one in the center saying goodbye and thanks for visiting. I just know that was her. Beautiful, beautiful photos.

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  7. Wow. Really amazing. A sea of penguins as far as the eye can go. Speechless once again. Love the playful curiosity of Miss Georgia and her pals.

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  8. Mary, what awesome photos!! They were just wonderful. Love Miss Georgia!!

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  9. That was a FANTASTIC tour.....the next best thing to being there was traveling with you. Thank you for your commentary and extraordinary photos. It is hard to imagine penguins as far as the eye can see and those enormous seals are amazing. A super, super adventure and how much fun it must have been to make the acquaintance of Ms. Georgia!
    Farm Gal in VA

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  10. Just had a nice lazy browse thru your photos Mary, what an incredible experience but, I have to say, it looks too cold!
    I am just recovering from my first chest infection this winter and not feeling too bad thanks to the meds.
    Weather has Ben cold and dry here for weeks but today, thick heavy mist hanging over the whole town.
    Grrrrr, cannot edit my text, never mind, you get the gist.
    Love to you both
    JJ

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  11. All I can say is WOW! What incredible photos. It must have been so wonderful and amazing to be there with these thousands of penguins and other sea creatures. Thanks for sharing them and the interesting facts on the penguins. Pamela

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  12. OH MY GOSH! How wonderful is this?! To be surrounded by penguins is a wildlife lover's dream! Such cuteness abounds, be still my heart. I don't think my weary bones could make a trip that far, but it is sure a treat to see your photos. I'm coming back later on to check out more of your posts!

    Glad that you found my little blog and the new one devoted to photo challenges. Hop on in and have some fun with us! It looks like a great group assembling. The link will be open for another 2 days, so no need to be in a terrible rush. Just a wee one, LOL.

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  13. Amazing. ALL those penguins! and to think, they can keep track of their young. What an incredible xp that must have been.

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  14. Mary...I just slid off my chair and might have difficulty getting up again. I just love your post and am completely smitten with Ms. Georgia. Imagine finding her in your luggage on your return home! Thank you so much for all your suggestions. We are really keen to do this one day. Can't wait to send this post to Mr. H. Sending you warm wishes from Saigon...xx

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