This morning, we were supposed to have a 4am (!) wake-up call, a quick, cold breakfast, and then be on the Zodiacs to shore at 4:30 for sunrise. (I guess the photographers had been asking when they'd get their sunrise-on-land shots...) Well according to Ted, we had anchored off of Gold Harbour last night around bedtime, but the winds got way up around 1-2am and starting pulling the ship from its anchor, so they had to head to shelter. This part of the island isn't very sheltered and there are multiple glaciers that come down off the mountains into the sea, carrying very strong, cold winds with them. Heading away from Gold Harbour meant that we were no longer near enough the beach to make landings at 4:30am. Instead, Ted woke us up at 6:30am, explained the situation, and said that breakfast would be from 7-8 and then we could head to the beach at 8. That plan worked!
Today's weather was very blustery and snowy, but that didn't stop us! The fore of the beach was covered in elephant seals made up of many harems and pups/weaners making the usual racket. The rear of the beach was covered in King penguins, including the super cute Oakum Boys, also making their usual racket. I stayed for 3 hours, taking in the sights and behaviors of the wildlife and there was always something interesting happening in any direction you faced. The elephant seal weaner pups are so cute with their big, glassy eyes, playing with each other and biting faces and flippers. The Oakum Boys in their puffy, fur coats will mostly stand around, walk a bit, flap their flippers, and then one will go crazy and start running amok amongst the group -- that scene made me laugh aloud every time. They are so stinking cute! And every now and then, a group of the Boys would get brave and wander very close to us, within a foot or so. Such an amazing experience, and makes me wonder what's going through their little bird brains.
Weather turned back to nasty by 11am and the Ortelius started having trouble maintaining its position again. By then, Hugh and Ted decided to call everyone back before the weather got worse. My Zodiac ride back to the ship was a bit wet -- waves were splashing over my back and unfortunately, into my waterproof gloves... seems I needed to put the ends UNDER my waterproof jacket, not over.
Top photo: King penguins everywhere!
Middle photo: King
Bottom photo: Molting king