Drifting at Pleneau

As we are on our way north we are headed back toward the beautiful LaMaire Channel. Before we go through that though we make a few stops the first of which is at Pleneau Island for some sightseeing on the Island (which Mom does) and kayaking (which I do). Thankfully, I found Kathleen who is a great kayaking partner who shares my disdain for physical effort in the kayak, so kayaking is really more like drifting. We do think that this lack of effort has allowed us to see a lot more than most. Some of the highlights include:

Leopard Seals: Once again encountering our ‘friends’ the leopard seals. In fact, we got so close to one (I actually thought it was a harmless Weddell seal at the time) to hear it snoring. And then later see two of them burst out of the water to climb up to an iceberg. These are amazing animals. They have a primitive, sinister look that is pretty scary when they come at you (especially in a kayak) and are incredibly powerful swimmers. In Antarctica, only the Killer Whale is the only animal higher on the food chain. Later I will post about how global warming is effecting these creatures.

The sounds of Antarctica: Kathleen and I have decided that this is the most relaxing mix of sound we have ever heard. The combination of the water hitting the shore, ice breaking up, gases escaping from small pieces of ice, penguins talking combines to a beautiful symphony that further prevented our paddling the kayak.

Bath Time: At one point our kayak drifted to up against the shore to a spot where the penguins and blue-eyed shags ( a kind of cormorant), definitely appeared agitated that we were there. We decided actually paddle a few feet to a spot a few feet over on the side and they seemed much happier. After we were out of the way the shags got into the water and started a strange sort of dance that was hard not to laugh out loud at. The would dip there head into the water and then beat their wings like mad over the water as they were. Three or four of them were doing this at once while the penguins were watching and then the penguins decided to start flapping their wings and then they also waddled into the water and squired around in their best imitation of the shags’ dance. Later the naturalists on the ship confirmed that both the penguins and the shags were bathing. This went on for about 15-20 minutes and was a riot to watch.

Penguin missiles: After watching the bath time, the penguins began to get in the water. Watching penguins swim is amazing. Penguins are pretty slow and clumsy on land, but as soon as they hit the water, they turn into black and white missiles. From where our kayak was we could see them swimming under the water as they turned and darted all around. We could also see them swimming in packs and porpoising – actually leaping their entire bodies out of the water. It was really fun to watch.


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