Signy Island penguin walk

This morning we headed in the tender to Signy base. It felt strange to leave the ship and even stranger to walk on land again. Despite having already been to five international bases (Russian, Chilean, Chinese, Uruguayan, Argentinian) during my Antarctic trip this was the first time I set foot on a British base which was very exciting. I could even get postcards stamped with a British Antarctic Territory stamp!

We had a lovely walk in sunshine and blue skies across to the penguin colonies skirting along the edge of the glacier and down to the crystal clear, almost tropical looking, blue waters of the bays below littered with penguins. Adelie penguins were nesting with chicks in huge colonies, and chinstrap penguin colonies were incubating their eggs. One poor Adelie chick was snatched from its parents by a skua, the harsher side of nature.

Something that was very noticeable about Signy was the green-ness of it in comparison to King George island and Jubany. While Jubany had a few patches of grasses, mosses and lichens, I was struck by the extent of the vegetation here, especially mosses and lichens that we passed on our walk to and from the penguins. Of course there are still no trees and the ecoregion is still Antarctic tundra but it is clearly more extensive here than further south.

After enjoying the sunshine and blue skies the weather started to turn as we headed back to the base. With the mist closing in the blue sky turned to grey, visibility was poor and as we trudged back through the snow at the glacier edge the journey soon felt more expedition like. As always, the weather can change quickly here and you always have to be prepared.

After dinner back in the warmth of the ship we were bound for Bird Island, South Georgia, passing through the Lewthwaite strait with majestic mountains and huge glaciers, past icebergs of all sizes, yet another good reason to stand, wrapped up, observing in wonder from the monkey deck until it got too cold and windy and I had to go in.

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