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  • Writer's pictureEryn

The Seventh Continent - Life at the Bottom of the World

A tiny penguin stands on a small land mass by the shore in front of a massive, blue glacier

Antarctica is completely different to the Arctic and is basically the very opposite. While the Antarctic is land surrounded by ocean, the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land. What the two poles do have in common, however, are the hardships the wildlife must endure to survive, in ways humans may never understand.

Every penguin has its arch-enemy, and the pure villain in the penguin world is the south polar skua. We were visiting a colony of chinstrap penguins on Half Moon Island, when among the crowd, we noticed a pair of birds with their heads down, pushing and nudging at what appeared to be an egg. According to the onboard ornithologist, the couple of chinstraps were young, inexperienced parents who had accidentally broken the egg, and were now helplessly fumbling with it. As we sympathized with the penguins, a skua suddenly swooped down close, gliding gracefully overhead. It veered away then dove again, this time with its webbed feet extended. It grabbed the egg with a swift snatch, but quickly dropped it when the chinstrap couple lunged back indignantly, defending their egg with great fury. Once the two made sure the skua was taken care of, they bowed their heads then raised them slowly towards the sky. Letting out mournful cries, they grieved, their shrill voices piercing through the cool air. It was an equally terrible incident for both the chinstrap penguins and the skua, for while the penguins have lost their chick, the skua might just have to go without its lunch.

A south polar skua swoops down beside a chinstrap penguin, both of whose beaks are open

We were surprised to find a rogue Emperor penguin on that very same day, and it was a great treat we thankfully accepted. The bird was sitting calmly on its belly, simply resting with its eyes closed. It lifted its head a few times to take a peek at us, but when it realized we weren't very interesting, it settled back to its rest. Again, with our ornithologist's great expertise, he told us the penguin was young as its yellow feathers weren't very vibrant. It must have taken off from its colony and traveled a long way, otherwise, what would it be doing here among a bunch of chinstraps?

A young emperor penguin resting on its belly in the snow with its head lifted towards the camera

Just like the Arctic, Antarctica is thought to be a dark and lifeless place when it is truly filled with life. Unlike the Arctic, however, scientists and nations of the world have committed to protecting the entirety of this unknown continent, and just like them, we should be aware and conscious about the seventh continent and its counterpart.


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