Penguin Island is a tiny dot off the southeastern coast of King George Island, which is in the northern part of the South Shetland Island chain
Upon landing, we split up into two groups. One group went hiking up the volcano.
The other went to visit the chinstrap penguin colony (which, as promised,
we could smell before we could see!).
It was a bit disconcerting to see 4,000 penguins all facing in exactly the same direction, until we realized that they were doing this so as to keep their backs to the wind. Our guides told us that penguins like windy islands for their rookeries, since the wind keeps the snow from accumulating, which makes for a better surface upon which to lay eggs!
There were also
some Antarctic fur seals on this island, some of which would growl at us
as we passed, so we gave them a very wide berth. Our guides advised
us to stay at least 30 feet away from the seals, and to never get in between
a seal and the ocean, since that was its escape route. Most of the
seals left us alone, but I did see one young male seal that would growl
and charge at some of the humans. Julio, our expedition leader, would
sometimes clap his hands to scare the charging seals away, and once had
to kick some dust and small pebbles to deter a particularly agressive seal.
I stuck close to Julio, telling him, "I feel safer near you, because I
know that you're meaner than the seals!" <grin>
Another interesting feature of Penguin Island was the whale skeleton on the beach. I learned that whale vertebrae make wonderful seats for picture-taking or film-changing!