Sunday, March 9, 2014

I am taking . .

a short, last-minute but wonderful residency at VCCA, (Virginia Center for Creative Arts) and I’m torn.  

I keep bouncing between islands.  That is, I’m trying to work on the second of the Summerhood island ‘tween novels (which is set on an island suspiciously resembling Cuttyhunk,) and at the same time  trying to rough out the next couple of Antarctic blogs.  Which also happened to focus on islands although these are slightly farther south and even less populated than Cuttyhunk in winter.  

Unless, of course, you count the penguins. 

The ornithologist on board ship told us they were seventeen species of penguins, but although not all were in Antarctica and the sub Arctic regions, all of them were in the southern hemisphere.  So there probably won’t ever be penguins on Cuttyhunk or an island suspiciously like it.  Then again, there probably won’t ever be people on most of these islands that we visited, so I guess we’ll call it even.

After the Falklands we spent a couple of days at sea, getting lectures on every possible subject from explorers to climate change, penguins and skua’s and albatross,  fur seals, elephant seals, whales (which my voice program insists on spelling  Wales,) even a lecture on krill.  With perfect timing, we were called from the Wale (sic) lecture up on deck by the captain to see pilot Wales and fin Wales swimming around the ship. 

I won’t anthropomorphize them by saying there were cavorting, but they certainly appeared to be having as good a time as I was even though they weren’t taking any pictures.  Apparently Wales have better memories than we do and don’t require seven thousand two hundred and forty-six pictures to remember that this large steel thing with some sort of mammalian forms leaning over its sides was staring at them and making odd gestures during dinner time.

Our first stop on South Georgia Island was at Salisbury plain. If I’d realized I’d see  this many penguins up close

 I don’t know that I would’ve taken as many pictures of faint penguin specks in the distance on the Falklands.

Here were our first king penguins and we saw them by the hundred thousands. 

Kings look just like emperors only smaller, which is good because emperor penguins reside deep inland on the Antarctic continent.  Just a few newly hatched chicks here,

but some kings sitting on eggs 

and a great many first-year chicks who were molting their downy brown feathers for that sleek, waterproof black and white coat that enables them to move like bullets in the water towards prey and away from predators. 

favorite photo bomb of all time

This is also the time of year that king penguins do their catastrophic molt.  Basically they stand still for a week and do nothing but lose feathers as a new coat comes in.

There were also tons (literally) of seals. 

Mostly fur seals of several generations,

 but a few elephant seals as well.  

And you know how cute and adorable and sweet those little fur seals are?
Not.  Well, maybe they are cute and adorable, but they are not sweet.  As Susana put it, they wake up cranky.  And it goes downhill from there. 

And here too, we found that neither birds nor animals obeyed the 15 feet/15 m rule about contact.  Which was fine with penguins,
but caused some interesting backpedaling from angry seals.  For some reason, as I guess is true in every culture around the world, the adolescents were by far the most pissed off.

I know it’s been ages since I gave a recipe, but this is an Antarctic blog.  If you’d like, after the next blog which deals with the excitement of a death march and a whaling station (oh be still my beating heart) wI ill give you a recipe from a book I read before I left entitled Hoosh.  Would you prefer penguin breast in port wine sauce or saddle of sea lion?