9 February, 1998
Today started out with the usual collecting water from the CTD and putting them in the incubator. Then I ran a batch of samples. Rather a regular day so far, but.......this evening, we went to an Adelie penguin rookery!
As we approached the island, it was very obvious that the rock was black basalt. Some parts of the basalt were smooth, but most was very cubic in nature. It formed many areas of "steps" that showed smooth fracture faces. No wonder the birds roosted there. Besides small rocks for a nest, the rocks had natural shelves that made it easy to keep an egg safe. The penguins showed little concern as we approached and went on about their stealing rocks from others and feeding their babies. Skuas swept down around the colony, but the babies were almost full grown and a bit big for the predators. The blue-eyed shags were also very friendly and curious. We allowed them the 15 - 20 feet required, but they approached us often. The rookery was actually rather quiet in phases and then a penguin pair would start intoning endearments to one another, and the whole rookery would join in. Frequently, one would hear a baby chick chatter and beg its parent for food. The parent penguin responded by regurgitating partially digested krill into the chick's mouth. There was a lot of bill touching to affirm family ties. It appeared quite affectionate. These little guys were real curious and stayed very near us - their choice, not forced upon them.
There were also blue-eyed shags, which is the Antarctic equivalent to the cormorant. For those of you who do not have cormorants, it is a long necked bird that dives underwater to get its food. Some elephant seals were lying around and I got some video of one lounging on the rocks near the shore. While we were there, a fur seal came lumbering out of the water onto the rocks below. He stayed on the rocks briefly, but long enough for me to get some video of him and a few pictures. It was so awesome to watch him walk across the rocks and dive back in. Fur seals are actually more closely related to sea lions than seals, so they can maneuver the back feet for brief period of walking. According to Peter Duley, fur seals are not normally seen much around Marguerite Bay. I could tell it was a male because his fur "ruff" around the neck area was so prominent. He was so big and so beautiful.
That's all for today. So much excitement can really wear a person out, and I still have more samples to run!
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