Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

New Island, Falkland Islands

Posted at 9:05 pm, December 31st, 2003

Crappy weather, awesome day. I was the first one out of the zodiac this morning and quickly on my way to the New Island rockhopper penguin colony. These little buggers were awesome as they bounced across the rocks with their punk rocker hairdos waving, or wandered up to us to investigate the new arrivals. They somehow never got hurt despite the fact that they fell frequently — I watched one penguin drop off of a six foot cliff, taking out several of his fellows along the way, after which all of them simply shook their heads and started hopping back up. The other amusing thing about these guys was that they would always travel in groups, so I often found myself rounding a bend in the trail only to see five or six little heads all in a line and bobbing toward me. They’d wait for me to step aside, and then continue to bounce their way along.

The weather eventually got too nasty for photography, so after a few more hours I bid the rockhoppers adieu and left to explore other parts of the island. I spent a half hour crouched under a rock overhang with two caracaras birds (they’re like hawks), both of whom sat about ten feet away. A magellanic penguin played with me for a bit, coming over to investigate any time I did anything stupid (which was often since the rocks were slippery). I then walked a few miles across the island to see a gentoo penguin colony. Along the way the magellanic penguins were hanging out in their burrows in the grasses, causing me to constantly do double-takes — when you’re used to seeing gophers and rabbits in the fields, seeing penguins in the grass is most definitely an odd sight. The gentoo colony was also interesting, with a few hundred penguins hanging out in a big circle in the middle of an open field and making the usual penguin ruckus.

I kind of rushed through the walk back from the gentoo colony, barely making it in time to catch the last zodiac. In the hurry I forgot to zip up my waterproof jacket or buckle my gaiters, and the brilliance of this move was confirmed when I entered the zodiac with water sloshing in my boots and exited with my top completely soaked from the waves that had been breaking over the bow. After changing into dry clothes everyone celebrated New Year’s (on central European time) with champagne and a shrimp dinner. Tomorrow we’re visiting another island in the Falklands, and with luck the weather will be as agreeable as the surroundings.

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