Antarctica Day 2: Cuverville Island, Gentoo Penguins & Crabeater Seals
Gentoo penguins seemed to be everywhere on Cuverville Island. With their distinctive white stripe on the top of their heads and their bright orange-red beaks, they were quite a spectacle, climbing over the rocky terrain, waddling into the water and collecting pebbles for their nests. With 6,500 breeding pairs, it’s the largest Gentoo colony in Antarctica.
It was another beautifully sunny day for exploring the White Continent. We had watched the early morning zodiacs leave for Cuverville Island and were thrilled that the weather was holding for our afternoon expedition. In Antarctica, weather determines everything, and the itinerary can change up until the moment you get off the ship.
The shore was muddy and even rockier than Half Moon Island, with large jagged boulders surrounding the smaller stones. The bright snow-covered landscape sparkled in the water, creating an illusion of lights dancing in the distance.
Just as on Half Moon Island, the penguins are the main attraction. Gentoo penguins thrive in Antarctica and are the third largest species, behind the Emperors and Kings. They have a long, prominent tail, and like the Chinstraps, they are fast-movers.
Before returning to the ship, our zodiac cruised around some of the nearby icebergs, giving us an up-close look at their remarkable size and color.
Rounding one iceberg, we came upon a group of Crabeater seals who make their homes on the platform-like Antarctic pack ice. Slender and pale-colored, they can weigh as much as 450 pounds and are more than seven feet long. Our expedition guide Kirstie Yeager told us that despite their name, they feed on krill and do not eat crabs! Only a couple of the Crabeaters looked up as our zodiac cruised by. They were clearly more interested in sleeping under the Antarctic sun, an understandable choice on such a glorious day.