Journey to Antarctica (Part V): Half Moon Island & Arctowski Station

Perhaps one of the most scenic and pleasant visits of our Antarctica trip was to Half Moon Island, one of the South Shetland Islands that has a sizable Chinstrap penguin population. This island has an Argentine research station onsite as well as a wrecked wooden boat near the shore that is mostly buried under the snow and ice. The day started out a bit gloomy as we landed on the shore, although the scenery was still beautiful.

We walked up a bit from the shore to check out the large rookery of Chinstrap penguins.

A Weddell Seal is spotted on the ice…

The Chinstrap penguins were singing loud and clear all morning during our landing.

All of a sudden the sun came crashing through the clouds and we were given beautiful sunlight along with a clear blue sky!

Penguins can freak you out at times when they reach over their backs with their heads to attend to a scratch, which gives the perception from up front that they’re headless!

The presence of human visitors to the penguin rookery didn’t bother our seal a bit, as it just continued to take its nap.

We were quite fortunate to have the amazing sunlight during our visit, which made the surrounding scenery look that much better.

It gets a bit dirty for the penguins during breeding season around their nests. Although they may need a good bath, they refuse to go anywhere as they have to protect their nests, which are made up of a simple pile of stones. During the breeding season the penguins do get a bit territorial around their nests, and any new penguins that accidentally stumble upon the rookery can get their asses kicked and thrown out to the curb.

Throughout the day, the penguins may walk around in the vicinity of their nests only to “steal” stones from the nests of other penguins.

In the photo below, right in the middle of all the other surrounding Chinstrap penguins is a Macaroni penguin, identifiable by its yellow crest. The story is that this lone Macaroni penguin has been nesting among the Chinstrap penguins for many years now. While these two penguin species can’t interbreed, apparently no one told the male Macaroni penguin this as he supposedly has a Chinstrap girlfriend and has been faithful to her through the years. Not sure if there’s a scientific explanation for this, but perhaps he is merely confused or had amnesia and lost all memory of his identity. Or better yet, maybe he’s just a penguin playboy that likes to have fun without suffering the consequences of having an unwanted penguin baby! Who knows…

An Elephant seal had also come onshore, where it laid next to the Weddell seal before eventually making its way back into the waters.

Still chilling despite the long line of human visitors walking by…

The Gentoo penguins are still my favorite, but I have to admit that I do have a certain affinity to the Chinstraps because like me they also have Asian eyes, hahaha…

The North Ireland flag gets some representation…

Time to get back onto our ship…

Later that same evening, we had the chance to visit Arctowski Station, a working Polish station that is opened year round. However, the temperature had dropped dramatically during the evening and strong winds had picked up, which really limited our time at the station. After a brief visit we quickly got back onto our zodiacs and returned back to the warmth and comforts of our ship.

It was a great day overall, and with the nice weather that we had gotten earlier in the day, the visit to Half Moon Island was perhaps my favorite for the entire trip.

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