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We headed back the opposite direction in the Zodiacs along the shore. We found a beach with a ton of elephant seals hauled out and some gentoo and king penguins present as well. Then we headed a bit further around the coast and came across a major find: chinstrap penguins!

Chinstrap penguins were almost wiped out about 15 years ago when a native avian cholera broke out, then when the population rose up a bit, it was hit by the cholera again. Now, making landings where chinstraps are present is prohibited: humans don't carry the virus, but we want to leave the population unstressed and able to recover its numbers. In fact, Cooper Island is a protected area where no one can land, so it is now home to millions of birds who can breed and live there undisturbed.

The chinstrap beach was quite a sight! Beautiful birds against an always beautiful backdrop of snowy mountains. There were a few king penguins also hanging around, looking like mob bosses as usual. The beach also had a few elephant seals hauled out, and one in particular had been in a recent fight and injured its left eye pretty badly. After we made a couple passes along the beach from the Zodiac for the photographers on board, we headed back to the Macaroni penguin colony.

Top photo: Little chinstrap gathering on the beach
Middle and bottom photos: Chinstraps!

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