Macaroni Penguins

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Thu 28 Jan 2016 00:24
54:20.3S 36:15.9W

Not far from Cobblers Cove there is a large macaroni penguin colony on Rookery Point. To get there, we first needed to run the fur seal gauntlet.

"Between the two large males? it looks like there may be some space." "No, it looks less crowded near the penguins." "Argh, they are all in the water, back to plan A." 

The two large males were fairly relaxed about our intrusion onto their beach. The sun was shining and the girls were whining. Keeping all the females in your harem happy is a full time job.

We started up the gulley, a snarl here, a snarl there. "Oops I nearly stepped on that one." Fur seal have two fangs at the front of their mouth with which they can inflict some serious damage. Bites invariably become infected. Recently a cruise ship passenger was bitten on the arm and an artery was severed. A rescue mission was triggered which involved a helicopter refuelling in mid air, a war ship and emergency surgery in Stanley. He recovered from the bite, though I'm not sure he survived the wrath of his fellow travellers who had their cruise cut short to rush him towards the Falklands.

To be fair, the seals growl but usually move out of the way. So far we have never had one come up behind us, once you have passed they settle down.

Fur seals love dinghies. If you leave one lying around it will soon be adopted as a sun lounger. Being mean, we decided to haul ours beyond the fur seal line. It was hard work, lucky we don't have an outboard motor.

Ding a safe distance from the fur seals, Caramor anchored in Cobblers Cove

A steep climb up to the shoulder led to an easy downhill following the reindeer paths. The reindeer have all been shot in the past two years. They were introduced by whalers as food and for sporting and did well on South Georgia but they have been causing environmental degradation and when the government decided to eradicate the rat (also introduced by whalers), it was decided the reindeer should go as well. A sailor who lives in the Falklands brought several back on his yacht (I can't even start to imagine seasick reindeer!) and there is now a healthy herd on West Falkland.

Giant Southern Petrel brooding chick

We heard the penguins before we could see them. "Lets wander over the tussock grass to that group over there." The wandering turned into leaping between tussocks and disappearing into the mud between them. We didn't get far before we realised we were stood on top of the macaroni motorway which leads from the sea to the rookery. They waddle up muddy paths between the tussock clumps and as I looked down between the blades of grass, a couple of penguins shuffled past, totally oblivious to the giant peering down at them. We retreated to firmer ground from where we could watch life in the rookery without disturbing the actors.

Macaronis seeing off a Giant Southern Petrel that was after their chicks

Macaroni penguin displaying

Chicks creching, note auntie giving them a stern talking to

It’s thirsty work being a macaroni penguin

Macaroni penguins are 70cm tall. Nearly half of all macaroni penguins breed on South Georgia. They also breed in southern South America, Antarctica (north of the pack ice) and on islands of the south Indian Ocean. They arrive in South Georgia towards the end of October, lay an egg end of November which hatches approximately a month later. The chick is brooded for three weeks and then fed for a further three weeks. Chicks are fledged by early March at the tender age of three months.

We celebrated Burn's Night in style before moving onto Ocean Harbour.

It had to be a tinned haggis because a live one consumes 50 litres of water a day

Ocean Harbour