Thursday, February 25, 2016

In Search of Penguins, Falkland Islands

Magellanic Penguins

 It was crew change day and I decided to do something special while waiting for my flight.  Crew change, by the way, means that I am going home after a normal rotation of 4 weeks in the oil rig.  This time, the rig was located in the southern most part of the world, almost touching Antartica, it’s in the Falkland Islands, just about the tip of South America, near Chile.  The place is nothing quite like the places I’ve been to, the land is almost barren, there were no trees and the season is opposite to what I was used to.  I have lived and travelled all my life above the equator.  Furthermore, this is the first place where I first experienced SNOW, I was so thrilled when I felt the ice on my palms, it was a momentous event.  One of the best parts of my stay here was seeing the penguins in their natural habitat!

Gypsy Cove

 Before reaching the penguins, we passed by the Whalebone Cove.  There you can see actual whale bones which was quite interesting.  Whaling and sealing contributed to the early economic growth of the Falkland Islands. 

Whale bone

Upon walking farther, my companions and I encountered some nice rock formations and landscapes.

Beautiful landscape and rock formations

 The Falkland Islands is under the British government, however, the Argentinians also claimed them maybe because of the proximity.  History dictates that a war came into action between the two countries (1982) regarding ownership of the islands and one of the consequences were the land mines on the shore.  The Brits won the war eventually.

Land mines!  Be careful.

 After a long walk, we reached the Gypsy cove.  This is the place where you can appreciate the cute and awesome Magellanic penguins.  They are named after the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, who also discovered the Philippines.  Living all my life in the tropics, I had no idea how the penguins thrive.  My companions and I reached the area around 2 pm and at that time, as the locals reminded us, most of the penguins are out into the sea to fish.  Luckily, we were able to see some of them.  Apparently, the penguins borrow under the soil to breed, lay eggs and protect their youngsters.  The burrows are approximately 50 meters away from the shore.  They are considered good parents because they nurture their chicks to adulthood and the mother and father take shifts in watching the little ones.  They are also considered good wives and husbands because they only mate with the same partner and they can recognize their partner with the "mating call".

A cuddly and flightless bird.

We saw penguins inside the burrows and just like a child, we were so excited to take some pictures.  One penguin finally came out and I stealthily followed it towards the shore.  It walked like a baby who is trying to steady his gait.  It stood erect and ran to the beach with its wings flapping at its sides, definitely like the ones you see in the movies.   I ran towards the penguin when it swam to the sea and disappeared.   I didn’t realized that I was already in the beach and I was already in the restricted part of the bay.  The sand was pure white, white as sugar and fine as sugar, it was magnificent!  God really made wondrous things.

An adult Magellanic penguin stands 2 feet tall.

The island also boasts of another wildlife, the seals!  They look so lazy, maybe in real life they really are.  

The lazy-looking seals.

Time really flies when you are having fun.  My companions already told me that it is time to go back.  We walked one hour and 30 minutes to our mini hotel but it seemed like two hours to me.   I had fun, the penguins were great.  In my life, I thought, I would only see them in the movies but there I was, face to face with the waddling flightless birds.

The start of a long walk to our mini-hotel.  The British, the Canadian and the French.
 I wrote this blog aboard Cathay Pacific Airlines, which was a 13-14 hours flight from London to Hong Kong.  The airline offered excellent white wine.  If there is a term for “drunk dialing” then this is considered to be “drunk blogging”.  I hope you have enjoyed my words which was half inspired by alcohol!  

The penguin and me.

Photo credits:  Some of the photos were taken by our Chief Engineer, Pal Eikrem, with his Nikon camera and the rest were taken by the author using a mobile camera, Lenovo S920.  You should be able to see the difference.  LOL!

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