Return to the Wild South of Sea Lion Island

4th November 2015. Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands.

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On Sea Lion Island I met up with a small group of Norwegian Photographers led by Ole Jørgen Liodden of Wildphoto.  I had previously met Ole on the plane from Santiago to Mount Pleasant Airport (East Falkland) and we were all due to join the ship on the voyage to South Georgia Island in a few days.

Ole asked me if I had seen anything interesting in my quick tour of the island and I told him of the wild conditions at the south end of the island so we all headed off there in two or three four wheel drives.

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Juvenile King Cormorant.

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The sea was thundering into an inlet and throwing up spray high into the air as well as a rainbow.

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

And here is the King Cormorant colony in a rare moment with little spray, though the wind was no doubt unabated.

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The sea was wild in the background, the spray carried for a long way and you had to be careful not to be blown over by the wind.

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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The birds in the sky are a mixture of the more drab juvenile King Cormorants and adults in their magnificent finery.

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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A lone dolphin gull over the colony.  The birds stand with their heads tucked away due to the force of the winds.

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And the force of the waves is amazing.  The ocean is a long way down.

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Not a good place for swimming.  Awesome power in the waves.

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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There were a few rockhopper penguins there too.

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A challenging environment for photography.  Cleaning of the front element would be happening here.

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

This is Ole Jørgen Liodden.

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I must have walked a bit further north from Rockhopper Point and the HMS Sheffield Memorial (HMS Sheffield was a destroyer sunk near here by an Exocet missile in the Falklands War).  The point in middle distance is part of Sea lion Island but it must be Rum Island in the background.

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Striated cara cara in the spray.

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Dolphin gulls over the cormorants and photographers in the background.

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Ole was using two Nikon D5s with Beta firmware during this trip and there is a review of the D5 on his blog which includes images from the Falklands and South Georgia.

Sea Lion Island – Quick Tour

3rd November 2015. Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands.

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On arriving at Sea Lion Island, I opted for a quick tour of the island in a four-wheel vehicle.  There was just myself and a couple as well as the driver.

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Elephant seals, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Magellenic Penguin, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Silvery Grebe, Steamer duck, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

There were some wild seas.

 

Elephant seals, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, King Cormorant, Landscape, Magellenic Penguin, Nature, Photography, Sea Lion Island, seascape, Silvery Grebe, Steamer duck, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

… and they were washing in and out of the hole in the cliff.

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Silvery Grebe.

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The south end of the island was receiving the brunt of the storm.

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The King Cormorants had been washed out of their lower roosting position and had to take refuge further up.

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There was a wild wind but I was able to photograph from the quiet and comfort of the passenger seat of the four wheel drive.

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Back at the Lodge in the east part of the island, I went for as walk before dinner.  This is an elephant seal arriving on the beach.

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The seas were a bit wild at this end of the island too.

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Magellanic Penguin.

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This is the Gentoo Penguin Road.  Stretching from the beach in the far left distance…

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… past where I was standing to their colony.

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Here is the far point and the Penguin Road in the middle foreground.

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And a bit further on they cross some shallow water to get to the beach.

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Dominican Gull in front of the wild sea.

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Flightless steamer ducks.

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Gulls wheeling in the air.

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An elephant seal coming in to shore and announcing his arrival.

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Probably the same one.  There were lots of elephant seals on Sea Lion Island but no sea lions at this time.

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A harem of elephant seals stretched out on the beach.

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A couple of young ones practicing for their adult contests.

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Snuggling in the seaweed.

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Peacefully sleeping on the beach.  Note the traces of blood though on the neck.  There have been some territorial contests going on.

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Penguin Colonies (Pebble Island)

2nd November 2015. Pebble Island, Falkland Islands.

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Gentoo Penguin (also the next five images).

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, Landscape, Macaroni Penguins, Nature, Pebble Island, Photography, Rockhopper Penguins, seascape, Travel, Turkey vultures, Upland Goose, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, Landscape, Macaroni Penguins, Nature, Pebble Island, Photography, Rockhopper Penguins, seascape, Travel, Turkey vultures, Upland Goose, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, Landscape, Macaroni Penguins, Nature, Pebble Island, Photography, Rockhopper Penguins, seascape, Travel, Turkey vultures, Upland Goose, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, Landscape, Macaroni Penguins, Nature, Pebble Island, Photography, Rockhopper Penguins, seascape, Travel, Turkey vultures, Upland Goose, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, Landscape, Macaroni Penguins, Nature, Pebble Island, Photography, Rockhopper Penguins, seascape, Travel, Turkey vultures, Upland Goose, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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These penguins are upland geese.

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And those distant shapes are nesting giant petrels.  Not to be closely approached or they desert their nests.

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Two-banded Plover.

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, Landscape, Macaroni Penguins, Nature, Pebble Island, Photography, Rockhopper Penguins, seascape, Travel, Turkey vultures, Upland Goose, Wilderness, Wildlife

Cara cara.

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Flightless steamer ducks (The Falklands also has flying steamer ducks).

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, Landscape, Macaroni Penguins, Nature, Pebble Island, Photography, Rockhopper Penguins, seascape, Travel, Turkey vultures, Upland Goose, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Turkey vulture drying its wings.

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Cara cara, Falkland Islands, Gentoo Penguins, Landscape, Macaroni Penguins, Nature, Pebble Island, Photography, Rockhopper Penguins, seascape, Travel, Turkey vultures, Upland Goose, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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I think a juvenile kelp gull.

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Rockhopper penguins en masse.

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Rockhopper penguin and egg.

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A couple of macaroni penguins in the rockhopper colony.

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Rockhopper penguin.

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Rockhopper penguns near the top of the cliff, walking up towards their colony.

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Looking down to where the come in and out of the sea as the waves go crashing in.

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A longer view, also showing them coming up the cliff.

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Nearing the top, the colony in the left distance.

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These are gentoos, with a large land-based penguin in the background, otherwise known as a sheep.

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Pebble Island Penguins and Skuas

1st November 2015. Pebble Island, Falkland Islands.

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I’m about to start posting on wildlife in the Falklands but first a brief account of some computer misadventures that has delayed this post. Feel free to skip this bit if you’re not interested or it’s too technical.

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Computer Issues and Solutions

Ten days ago, my computer died, suddenly and completely. The CPU (the chip that powers it) was dead. The computer was six years old and replacing the chip didn’t seem enticing. New ones are no longer available for that motherboard and a second hand chip from EBay might prove to not work. The motherboard was also incompatible with Windows 10, so an upgrade to a modern machine was in order.

As it happens, I wrote an article on that for the Canberra Photographic Society. so it was fairly easy to work out what I needed. Some of my files may be 50MB out of the camera and when I combine multiple images for panoramas, focus stacking or HDR, the files get very large. Taking the images is just the start. The processing task is not to be underestimated and since I process a lot of images I don’t want to be forever sitting round waiting for something to happen. So my requirement is for pretty heavy-duty image processing and this is not a typical PC.

I retained the case, power supply and hard drives. I purchased new motherboard (Gigabyte Z170X – Gaming 7), CPU (Intel Core i7 6700K), CPU cooler (Thermaltake Riing Silent), video card (Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1060) and 32GB RAM (GSkills Ripjaws V DDR4). This is actually a previous generation motherboard and CPU (from about six months ago) so I was able to save a bit of money with little loss in processing speed. I had also bought a new 30 inch NEC professional monitor a couple of months previously (at half price) and may in due course get a couple of M.2 SSDs (3 to 5 times faster than normal SSDs) to speed up the machine further for bootup and for the Lightroom catalogue and cache.

I ordered the PC components and ended up with a new working PC except with one “minor” problem – no access to my images because when the CPU died, it took out my data drive. Even without buying two more M.2 SSDs, my PC has six hard drives – an SSD for startup and applications, an extra drive for non-photographic storage and a RAID 10 array of four drives (i.e. my data drive). The RAID array has two pairs of drives that mirror each other for safety and each pair simultaneously writes across each drive (called striping). This makes it both fast and easy to recover when a drive fails. The problem was that when the CPU died, it knocked two of the drives out of the RAID.   I was unable to rebuild it, even after a clean reinstall of Windows.

So I’m starting again from a data drive with no images.  All my files should be backed up on my Drobo (a five-disk RAID-like backup system), so I should be able to restore them.  I restored the Falkland Images to a local drive a few days ago to use in generating this post and I’ve just started recovering all images from backup to my data drive.  This will take another day or so.

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Pebble Island

OK, back to the Falklands.

I haven’t had any problems with jet lag in the past. Partly this may be sleeping on the plane to key my metabolism to the destination. But the 55-hour transfer was just too much to end up fresh at the other end. So I was very lucky that I had personalised tours of the island awaiting me with Montana Short and his four wheel drive vehicle. These images are from the morning after I arrived on the plane.

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Montana driving over a boggy stream.

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We were heading towards the South of the island.  I think this must be Elephant Bay.  No elephants so they had probably all swum out to sea.  And what you see is typical Falkland islands rainforest, often several inches high.  If you click on it you go to a larger than usual image.

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Magellanic Penguin peeking out of its burrow with upland geese in the background.

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A pair of Magellanic Penguins from the same burrow.

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Gentoo Penguin calling out to the gods beyond the sky. … Or perhaps advertising for a mate.

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… Or maybe calling for the skuas to stay away.

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Here’s a Skua, hovering over the penguins, looking for an unattended egg.

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This egg is safe.

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Perhaps returning after a fishing expedition.

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Now this is a colony of Rockhopper Penguins, again with a Skua patrolling overhead.

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Let’s do the time warp again…

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A rockhopper on a cliff.

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It can get quite territorial when someone wanders close to a nest, even if they have to do so to get to theirs.

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… and then it can be on for young and old….
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Skua on patrol.
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The last laugh? Two skuas with a stolen egg.
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South Georgia 1

9th to 11th November 2015. Right Whale Bay, Salisbury Plains and Prion Island, South Georgia Island. Temporary post. Images only. Minimal descriptions for images.

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Antarctica, Fur seal, Gentoo Penguins, Giant Petrel, Grey-headed albatross, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Grey-headed albatross, Scotia Sea.

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Right Whale Bay.

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King Penguins.

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Salisbury Plains.

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Fur seal.

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Wandering Albatross chick, Prion Island.

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Antarctica, Fur seal, Gentoo Penguins, Giant Petrel, Grey-headed albatross, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

6th April: Falkland Islands (leaving Steeple Jason Island)

Late in the afternoon we headed off for the coast of Patagonia, slowly leaving Steeple Jason behind us as the afternoon turned into sunset. There were many albatrosses and giant petrels in the air and some cara caras turned up to farewell us on the ship.

Steeple Jason Island

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Cara caras on the ship's mast

A lone black-browed albatross against the late afternoon sun

A cara cara and the Russian flag

Steeple Jason Island

A city of black-browed atbatrosses and possibly gentoo penguins

A giant petrel (above) and a black-browed albatross (skimming the sea) as the afternoon turns into sunset

A black-browed albatross against Steeple Jason Island as sunset comes on.

A giant petrel in front of Steeple Jason Island at sunset

Two giant petrels in the sky as the Falklands recede and the sunset starts to fade away

6th April: Falkland Islands (Steeple Jason Island)

In the early afternoon we landed on Steeple Jason island, a somewhat precarious scramble from the zodiac to the rocks in a small cove.  There were traces of farming activity from long ago but the island has been uninhabited for some time.

Many went off to try to find the albatrosses in their colonies but few managed to find their way through the very high tussock grass.  Perhaps fortunately, I had noticed the great sea highway of gentoo penguins near where we landed and settled in to photograph them.  At the end, I just had time to snatch a few landscapes before we were summoned to an early departure.

I settled down in a nice comfortable position and opposite me was a large rock on which penguins were coming in out of the water and being washed on and off by the waves.

Most of these penguins have yellow beaks except the bottom one who has an orange one (there were also a few others).  The gentoo penguins at Vernadsky Station had orange beaks so perhaps this is a stray from Antarctica.

I was particularly looking to get gentoos porpoising so I was very pleased to catch the shot above.  This is not easy to do because they suddenly bounce up out of the water and then disappear again and it’s difficult to predict where it might happen.

As I was observing the penguins from my elevated vantage point I observed very fast white shapes zooming around in the water.  At first I thought, wow, those fish can move really fast.  Then I realised it was the penguins.  These little fellows are speed demons, underwater racing cars, twisting and turning below the waves.

On the left above, an immature rock cormorant, on the right a gentoo penguin

Not drowning, waving.

Steeple Jason Island with gentoo penguins in foreground