Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Half Moon Island 23/1/2011 - afternoon landing

Half-Moon Island - the Zodiac shuttle service
Continuing a southwards passage of the South Shetland Islands, our next landing was on Half Moon Island. Despite its small size, - just 130 acres - imposing mountains loom close to the shore, creating a penguin theme-park of tilted slopes, lofty look-outs and icy snow chutes.

Snowy slopes on Half-Moon Island
False impressions? A sun-drenched landing 
Jagged off-shore islands

Drenched in sunshine (yet more, unusually hot weather for this neck of the world), our experience of Half Moon Island made it seem almost hospitable; but the foreboding rock slopes, jagged off-shore outcrops and immense glaciers that guarded the sun-warmed slate beaches stood as symbols of the power and hostility of the Antarctic environment; and the occasional blast of an icy gust or shadow of a storm-cloud, reminded that the sun's warmth could be overpowered in a single Antarctic breath. 
Feeding time on Half-Moon Island

You might think that we'd seen enough penguins by now...not so: The more penguins we met, the more we learnt, the greater our interest grew, and Half Moon is a chinstrap playground, where these robust little birds spend their days skidding and toboganning down icy slopes, chilling-out on the sun filled beaches with Weddell seals and feeding their fluffy chicks on rocky cliff tops.

Penguin party: Chinstraps on Half-moon island

Weddell Seal at Half Moon Island
The most bizarre behaviour we witnessed here was a Macaroni penguin who appeared to have infiltrated the chipnstrap colony and was attempting to cross-breed with one of its cousins. Penguin-pro, Frank Todd, informed us that this yellow-browed fellow had been a resident of 'chinstrap rock' for a number of years now, and was, as yet unperturbed by the lack of eggs produced.

Macaroni in the midst at Half-Moon Island

Chinstrap with chick at Half-moon island
 This blog-post forms part of a series of adventures experienced on-board the M/S Expedition in January 2012, whilst on an Antarctic Cruise - The Spirit of Shackleton - courtesy of Gadventures

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