Gentoo Penguins with an iceberg behind.


by Eve Andersson

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These photos are from a wonderful trip along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, the finger of land that juts up from the continent toward South America. Without question, the penguins were the highlight; but the other animals, the landscape, and the oddly shaped and sometimes deep blue icebergs were also quite extraordinary.


Oh, how I adore these magnificent creatures. So industrious, inquisitive, and gorgeous. Watching them walk is a delight; they stumble over rocks, extending their wings for balance, jumping to make large ascents or descents, falling flat on their stomachs and springing to their feet as if nothing had happened. Their swimming is as sleek as their walking is awkward. With their powerful wings they glide swiftly through the water, at intervals leaping into the air like dolphins.

Types of Penguin

I was lucky enough to encounter five species; particularly fortunate because Emperor Penguins are usually not seen on that part of Antarctica — but one was there, alone, resting on an iceberg. Although perhaps not the most beautiful or colorful of penguin species, the Adélies have spunky personalities, making them my favorite.

Adélie Gentoo Emperor Macaroni Chinstrap
Ad?e Penguin standing on a rock. Gentoo Penguin at the water's edge. Young Emperor Penguin alone on an iceberg. Two Macaroni Penguins. Chinstrap Penguin standing on a rock.


Ad?e Penguin walking. Gentoo Penguin jumping off a rock. Gentoo Penguin jumping off a rock.


Parent Ad?e Penguin feeding young penguin. Parent feeding baby Gentoo Penguin.


Note: the 2nd photo is a Magellanic Penguin from Tierra del Fuego, not Antarctica; I didn't have such photographic luck with penguin porpoising in Antarctica.

Gentoo Penguins entering the water. Magellanic Penguin porpoising.


Gentoo Penguin resting on rocks. Ad?e Penguin resting in the snow. Baby Gentoo Penguins sleeping.


Parent Gentoo Penguin warming babies in rock nest. Ad?e Penguin carrying rock for nest.


Gentoo Penguin calling. Young molting Chinstrap Penguin calling. Baby Gentoo Penguin looking up at me and calling. Chinstrap Penguin calling.


Young Ad?e Penguin molting. Young Ad?e Penguin. Young molting Chinstrap Penguin. Ad?e Penguin feathers.

Standards of Cleanliness

Dirty Chinstrap Penguin. Two Macaroni Penguins.

A few more Penguin Pics

Three Ad?e Penguins on an iceberg, preparing to jump into the water. Gentoo Penguin footprints on a rock. Chinstrap Penguin. Parent and baby Ad?e Penguins. Ad?e Penguin. Parent and baby Gentoo Penguin. Gentoo Penguins overlooking snowy mountains. Gentoo Penguins lined up at the water's edge. Child and parent Gentoo Penguins. Baby Gentoo Penguin looking up at me. Young Emperor Penguin alone on an iceberg.


Types of Seal

Five types of seal were encountered on the trip. The Fur Seal is the only one with external ears. The Crabeater Seal is misnamed; it should have been called "Krilleater". Elephant seals are so ugly they're cute (unfortunately I only got shots of young ones which haven't yet formed the impressive proboscis). I have very mixed feelings about Leopard Seals; on the one hand they're reptilian-looking penguin-eaters; on the other hand, I must begrudgingly grant that they have a grace and beauty of their own.

Elephant Fur Crabeater
Young Elephant Seal. Fur seal. Crabeater Seal on an iceberg.

Leopard Weddell
Leopard Seal on an iceberg. Weddell Seal lying in the snow.

A few more Seal Pics

Elephant seal resting in the water. Fur seal scratching. Three Crabeater Seals on an iceberg. Leopard Seal swimming. Leopard Seal yawning. Two Leopard Seals, one swimming.

Birds (Excluding Penguins)

Types of Bird

Many birds were seen, only a few of which I managed to photograph. Favorite: the Snow Petrel — pure white with a sweet-looking face. Least favorite: the Brown Skua — aggressive; eats baby penguins.

Cormorant Brown Skua
Cormorant. Brown Skua flying.

Snow Petrel Kelp Gull
Snow Petrel flying. Kelp Gull flying.

A few more Bird Pics

Brown Skua harassing Ad?e Penguins. Kelp Gull flying over Gentoo Penguins. Two Brown Skuas fighting. Baby Gentoo Penguin successfully driving away Cormorant. Two Cormorants. Storm Petrels swimming below Neptune's Window.


Tail of a Humpback Whale. A few whales (or portions thereof) were seen. Only one photo is worth sharing; that of a humpback whale's tail.


What most surprised me was how blue many of these icebergs are; the blueness is a result of glaciers' high pressure causing the air bubbles normally present in the ice to be squeezed out. A few photos below include penguins or people to give an idea of scale.

Gerlache Strait at dusk. Blue iceberg. Two Ad?e Penguin on an iceberg. Blue iceberg. Blue iceberg. Three people standing on an icerberg, next to the zodiac from which they arrived. Zodiac among blue icebergs. Deep blue Iceberg, Bransfield Strait between Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands. Sunset and icebergs.


Black, snow-covered mountains, Gerlache Strait Prospect Point, Graham Land, the first point on the Antarctic mainland onto which I stepped. Mountains, Grandidier Channel. Entrance to Lemaire Channel, a strait  between Booth Island and the Antarctic mainland. Sunset reflecting off a snowy mountain. Entrance to the Neumayer Channel. Lenticular clouds hovering over mountains on the west coast of Graham Land. Rock. Rock broken by severe ground movement. Sea shells on the ground.

Human Construction

A few dozen research stations exist on Antarctica, some of which have residents year-round, and some of which are seasonal (summer only). In the past, sealers and whalers had premises on Antarctica as well.

Whalers Bay (Deception Island)

Sitting on a black sand beach of Deception Island, Whalers Bay was used by multiple whaling operations from 1906-31. Today the remains lie in ruins. Deception Island is also famous for the hot springs that supposedly make the water swimmable. I can attest that (at least at low tide), the hot springs cause a little water, perhaps a centimeter deep, to be warm right at the shore; further out, it is really, really cold.

Building remains in front of a snowy, volcanic mountain, Whaler's Bay. Large tanks used for diesel fuel and whale oil, Whaler's Bay. Young Gentoo Penguin sheltering in the remains of a building, Whaler's Bay. Boat remains, Whaler's Bay.

Port Lockroy (Goudier Island)

Port Lockroy is a British Station on an island just off the Antarctic Peninsula, conducting research into the effect of human visitors on Gentoo penguin breeding. To do so, they have two groups of penguins on the island; the control group with no human contact and another group which receives over 10,000 visitors per year. Humans are not allowed to touch the penguins, but of course, the reverse isn't true. The curious, bold, and positively angelic baby Gentoos enjoy gently pecking away at their human visitors. Port Lockroy was used for British military operations during World War II. Many artifacts from that time are present in the on-site museum.

Baby Gentoo Penguin exploring my clothing. Baby Gentoo Penguins inspecting visitor. Baby Gentoo Penguin resting its head on Tom's foot.

Automatic Ionospheric Recording Equipment. Radio room, Port Lockroy. Port Lockroy. "Bovril" Pemmican, "A highly sustaining food .... For use in cold regions." Old containers of food, kitchen, Port Lockroy. "Meat Bar", sledging rations for humans. Books, lounge, Port Lockroy.

Vernadsky Station (Galindez Island)

This Ukrainian research station is famous for the Dobson meter which was used to find the ozone hole in the atmosphere above Antarctica. In addition to being a bona fide research station with meteorological and biological laboratories, the station also houses a bar, gift shop, and post office. When visitors are present, the computer engineer doubles as a bartender and the electrician as a tour guide. Fourteen people work at the station. All are male; hence the choice of gym adornment.

Oil tank, Vernadsky Station. Sign displaying distances to various cities and places, Vernadsky Station. Pavel, computer guy and (when there are visitors) bartender, Faraday Bar, Vernadsky Station. Vernadsky Station. Ice Pike, Biology Lab, Vernadsky Station. Gym, Vernadsky Station. Mag Room, Vernadsky Station. The space (off limits) that holds the Dobson Meter, the device used to detect the ozone hole over Antarctica, Vernadsky Station. Electrician and tour guide, Sasha, in his office, Vernadsky Station.

Wordie House (Winter Island)

This British meteorological research station was in operation from 1947-54 and is now designated as a historic site under the Antarctic Treaty System. Old equipment and staples have been well-preserved. The house contains a toilet but no bath (that I saw, at least).

"British Crown Land" sign by Wordie House, a British scientific research station dating from 1947. Breathing apparatus, Wordie House, a British scientific research station dating from 1947. Coal log inside Wordie House, a British scientific research station dating from 1947. Kitchen goods, Wordie House, a British scientific research station dating from 1947. Toilet, Wordie House, a British scientific research station dating from 1947. Wordie House, a British scientific research station dating from 1947. Wordie House, a British scientific research station dating from 1947. Instruments, Wordie House, a British scientific research station dating from 1947. Wordie House, a British scientific research station dating from 1947.

Getting There

The easiest way to reach Antarctica as a tourist is to take a boat leaving from Ushuaia, Argentina. It usually takes two days to reach the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, though it can take longer; storms or strong winds in the notorious Drake Passage can lengthen journey time and cause severe rocking of the ship. An alternative is to leave from a port in Australia or New Zealand; it takes longer but reaches more southerly parts of the continent. I went with a company called Aurora Expeditions which I recommend highly for their relatively small tour group sizes and excellent lecture program. Some intrepid visitors to Antarctica have even made the journey in their own yachts!

Gentoo Penguins, icebergs, snowy mountains, and the Polar Pioneer. Boat listing in the waves. Private yacht in Grandidier Channel.

More photos: View all photos in the directory /photos/antarctica/.
Eve Andersson (
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