Thursday, March 5, 2009

Days 40-41

We arrived in the South Orkney Islands on March 3rd. Despite the bad weather, the landscape was breathtaking, with mountains and icebergs competing for majesty.

The ship anchored near the Signy Island research station, and the next day the crew took us onshore aboard a zodiac. We were greated by a group of elephant seals peacefully sleeping together. They are not the most graceful animals on earth, especially when taking into account the smell and noise !

Then we went for a walk through the wildlife. First encounter with a fur seal, which walk on their flippers, like sea lions, my favorite animal when I was younger.

Then we litteraly walked among hundreds of them. It was an amazing feeling for me, an old dream realized !

While Helge was taking a picture of me next to the seals, I was keeping an eye on them...

... in case one would decide to attack ! The one below was aiming for me, and I did not wait any longer to run away after this shot...

... like my friend Helge !

We also walked among hundreds of penguins :

Chin-strap penguins :

Gentoo penguins :

The youngsters moulting :

The fur seals were ruling proudly over these turbulent penguins !

An elephant seal was trying to keep me from approaching him...

... but we finally became good friends !

Just as I was thinking I had seen almost everything interesting to see on that cruise, this walk through so many wild seals and penguins, living in their natural environment, almost devoid of human presence, made a strong impression on me. I almost came to regret having become a physical oceanographer making CTD casts on a ship rather than having become a biologist studying and living with these animals !...

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