Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
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BT – Cuverville Island

[Caveats: This is where the number of photos starts to get out of hand. Antarctica is magnificent and atmospheric. Penguins are very photogenic. The consequence of these and other related facts is that I took over 1800 photos on the Antarctic leg of the Big Trip. You’re not going to see all of them. You may, however, end up seeing more than you want, since I had difficulty narrowing down the collection for the purposes of this blog. Sorry. Not sorry.]

The morning light revealed that we were not in Kansas any more (indeed, I have never been in Kansas!). It was now quite calm, since we were sheltered in amongst the islands that run down the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

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After breakfast this morning we went ashore on Cuverville Island (S64°41′ W62°37′). It was an amazing feeling to be able to say that I was standing in Antarctica (although later a distinction was made between this island landing and a true “continental landing” on the mainland).

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Cath pottered around on shore, while I donned snowshoes and made my way part-way up the hill to get a different perspective.

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The mountaineers headed even further up the hill.

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There were hundreds of Gentoo penguins, nesting on the rocks, sliding on the ice, waddling along paths, and just generally looking cute (if a little noisy and stinky).

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Our first views were mostly of the rookeries, where many of the penguins were sitting on nests. A zoom lens does wonders for drawing them nearer, but as we explored the area (and provided we initially kept our distance and remained still when they were wandering around nearby) they would actually walk quite close to us, to the point where they were often right at our feet and they could have signed autographs (if only they had hands, pens, paper, and an alphabet!).

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Here is the first of a couple of short (and rather wobbly) videos; this one shows part of the rookery, while the second one (in a paragraph or two) shows a couple of wandering penguins.

 

At various times during the morning, and frequently during the following days, I wondered if it is possible to have too many photos of penguins. I have decided that the answer is “no”. It may be that it is possible to include too many in a blog, but that’s going to be your call not mine.

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One of the features of these penguin rookeries is the network of “penguin highways”. These are paths that the penguins have flattened between the shore and their rookeries, and in places the pitter-patter of many tiny feet has worn some highways so far downwards that the penguins almost disappear below ground level as they walk along them.

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Of course, penguins were not the only wildlife to be seen. In fact, I was surprised at how much there was, although our expedition leaders knew where the colonies were, and so our “sample” of the landscape is more than a little skewed. The next couple of shots show the Brown (or Antarctic) Skua. It also likes penguins, but in a way entirely different from me.

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Did I mention that it was amazing to be in Antarctica?

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As well as my sister Cath, I had an additional travelling companion accompanying me on the Big Trip. The teenage daughter of a friend of mine (herself a friend, in fact) knows my fondness for penguins, and had used her school’s 3D printer to print me a little plastic penguin, which she then decorated in appropriate colours before giving it to me prior to my departure. “Adele”, as she is now known, spent rather a lot of time rattling around in my pocket, but every so often she came out to see and be photographed in the scenery. She actually appeared in one of the earlier photos in the blog, perched on the sign indicating how far Hobart is from Antarctica in this post.

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This, however, is not Adele. It’s not even an Adélie. It’s another Gentoo. We’ll meet the Adélies later.

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