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  • Writer's pictureEryn

South Georgia - A Subantarctic Island

King penguins standing in a row among their colony in South Georgia
King penguins and their bright plumage standing in a row among their brown-feathered chicks

South Georgia is like a sanctuary for Antarctica's wildlife, for it is the place where they come to raise their young and start their lives. We were lucky enough to experience their way on this subantarctic island up close, and throughout this incredible trip, there were quite a few moments that were especially memorable.

I must say my favorite penguin is the gentoo penguin, the third biggest of the eight penguin species in Antarctica. They have two small white patches over each eye like a sort of eyeshadow, and their feet are of a coral color. They sit on nests made of gathered pebbles and small stones called rookeries, and can get very protective over them! When time isn't being spent fishing and hunting, the male gentoo penguins go add to their nests in the hopes of attracting the best female. At times, however, it's just too hard to find the rocks for yourself, so gentoo penguins will occasionally "borrow" some from their neighbors' nests. Cautiously approaching another penguin's back, we spotted numerous gentoo penguins quickly snatching up a rock in their beak, ignoring the rightful owner's protests as they bring it back to their own nest.

Two gentoo penguins facing each other with their beaks open on the rocky shores of South Georgia
Two gentoo penguins in the midst of a heated argument

Another animal from South Georgia that I find endearing is the elephant seal. This may seem ironic as elephant seals are known for their strange nose, but it is only the mature males that have them! Weaners are seals that have just left their mothers and are filled with great curiosity. We might have been the first humans they have ever seen, and they were not even just a little afraid. One kept on following us around, rearing up to get a better look at us a few times. It kept on opening its pink, toothless mouth wide open at us, while another came over to us to see what my mom's leg might taste like! While the weaners are delightful, we must remember that as mature males, elephant seals are short-tempered forces that can weigh as much as 4,000 kilograms. Both penguins and humans hence kept a wary eye on the giant seals dozing in the sand.

Two elephant seals laying in the sand of South Georgia
Two elephant seals and their captivating black eyes laying in the dark sand of South Georgia

It was truly incredible to be able to witness how all of these creatures of different shapes and sizes can coexist on the shores of South Georgia and how they all share a common goal to bring new life into the world. I am thankful a great effort is being put toward protecting and preserving these fascinating animals and their unique habitat.


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