Wednesday, November 30, 2011

29 November 2011 ADELIES AND GENTOOS AND CHINNIES…OH MY!

Yesterday we left Palmer Station and started our journey home.  On our way out from Anvers Island, we travelled through the ice under the bright, shining sun.  Many of the ice rafts had penguins and crabeater seals on them and we watched them scurry about as the boat loomed down on them (you’ve already heard about this in more detail from Little Melissa!)

We had one last stop to make before we could leave the Southern Ocean: King George Island.  There is a temporary field camp there, Copacabana, where the researchers study the colonies of three different penguin species:  Adelies, Gentoos and Chinstraps.  We went ashore to collect their garbage, work on their communication capabilities and pick up one of the researchers who is on her way home.  Lucky for us, we had about an hour of free time on the island to explore.  There were penguins EVERYWHERE.  You literally had to look down where you were walking so you didn’t step on them…it was amazing!  Here are a few pictures of the MANY penguins that we saw:
 
 Penguins penguins everywhere!  A huge colony of Gentoo penguins, with some Adelie penguins (and probably a few Chinstrap penguins) in the background.

A closeup of some Gentoo penguins.

 The small boat takes the first load of garbage back to the LM Gould while we stay ashore to take some photos…YAY!

All three penguin species nesting in the same area.  Back row, from left to right:  an Adelie Penguin, a Chinstrap Penguin and a Gentoo Penguin.

 Katie, Joe and Big Melissa stop to take a photo…what a great background!

 Peter Wiebe, one of my first mentors in the field of zooplankton ecology when I started working at WHOI…what a great experience it has been to sail with him!

We are currently on day 2 of our Drake Passage crossing and the weather is still pretty good.  The winds are kicking up a bit right now (gusting around 42 knots) but by the time it gets really bad this evening, we should be almost out of the Drake.  Then it is about a day and a half transit to Punta Arenas, Chile.  I am looking forward to enjoying one last meal in P.A. with everyone onboard before we all fly out on December 2nd.  But more about the cruise party later.  

Signing off for now…
Big Melissa

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