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Well here it is ... another penguin post from Antarctica. It's the final post I'll make about penguins, and in fact the final post about my super phenomenal experience on our 12-day cruise to Antarctica, which I leave with you just as I depart for a very different southern environment -- back to Africa, back to elephants and lions and all the safari animals, whom I love dearly, but I think at the end of the day, I'm going to have to go with penguins as my number one all-time favorite animal to be around and to photograph. (even if an awful lot of my photos didn't turn out so well) (and even if I have to breathe through my mouth sometimes to block out the stench) So this last post is titled "For the Love of Penguins" in recognition of that. There's no theme to this selection. Just some more pics and depictions of penguin life that I like for one reason or another. Haven't seen my other penguins and can't get enough? See Part 1 and Part 2 of the Penguin Diaries

There's something special about lone penguins. There's something special about penguin pairs. There's something special about penguin clubs. Let's see ... is there some kind of penguin number that is not special? Maybe clusters of 13?? I don't know. There's even something special about hundreds of them trilling, commuting and pooping in their metropolis colonies.  

If I were forced upon some horrific pain to choose one of the above as the ultimate penguin number, I guess I'd have to say, "two." Because it's a compromise between the lone penguin and any other higher group number. So the charming individuality shines through comparably with the entertainment value of penguin interactions. I guess. I don't know. Honestly, I'm just making junk up to pretend I have a method to my posting mayhem and madness. haha. So here ... just please enjoy some penguin pairs. 

This chinstrap pair was making their way along the volcanic beach together, the one tagging along just behind the other like a little brother saying, "Hey, I'm coming, too!" On the appropriately named "Penguin Island."   Pair of chinstrap penguins walking across the mossy beach at Penguin Island, South Shetland Islands.Pair of chinstrap penguins walking across the mossy beach at Penguin Island, South Shetland Islands.Pair of chinstrap penguins walking across the mossy beach at Penguin Island, South Shetland Islands.

Penguin buddies at Mikkelsen Harbor. I always like a good reflection. 

Gentoo penguin buddies and their reflection in the water at Mikkelsen Harbour, Antarctica.

Penguins, as I've already mentioned a bunch of times, are so caption-able. Clearly in this captured moment below, the one penguin is asking the other for directions, and he's pointing with his flipper where to make a right turn. 

Two penguins, one giving directions to the other, Yankee Harbour, South Shetland Islands.

I like it that the penguins are not species-ist. They all hang out together just fine ... such as this gentoo and adélie, interested in the same thing over their shoulders. Oh wait ... except the adélie seems to have spied me! 

Gentoo penguin and adelie penguin looking at the same thing together. Gourdin Island on the Trinity Peninsula, Antarctica.

But probably the most adorable penguin pairs are little twins in their parents' nest. Gentoo penguin females lay two eggs each time they breed. They're incubated for a little over a month before hatching. It was about as common to see a nest with two chick as with one in the colony of gentoo penguins at Yankee Harbor. Supposedly the two eggs hatch within only a few days of each other. There were clearly a number of chicks who were still awaiting the arrival of their sibling, but here are some more shots of sibling chicks. All I can say is, what a joyous treat our last day with penguins to find the colony brimming with little fuzzball babies. 

Baby gentoo penguin siblings in their nest ready for a meal from mom, Yankee Harbour, South Shetland Islands. Gentoo penguin chick siblings chirping in chorus. Yankee Harbour, South Shetland Islands.Proud looking gentoo penguin mom (or dad) caressing two older chicks under her wings. Yankee Harbour, South Shetland Islands.

Here's another bird pair we had the privilege to see on Penguin Island ... the southern giant petrel. It's hard to get a sense of scale from the photos, but I assure you their wingspan is safely within the definition of "giant." I thought the white one looked somehow almost ethereal against the blue sky. 

Southern giant petrels in a nest on Penguin Island, South Shetlands Islands.White southern giant petrel, wings open, Penguin Island, South Shetland Islands.

I haven't yet talked about the skuas -- the sinister birds that stalk the penguin colonies looking for unattended penguin eggs and chicks to snatch and dine on.

Skua with some penguin feathers still caught in his beak from lunch. Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands.

Here you see one swooping in (on the right) toward the rocks to scan for a meal. 

Skua swooping in toward a penguin colony looking for a meal. Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands.

Although penguins win the Oscar for anthropomorphic expressions and drama, this skua couple put on a good show. The one on the right is clearly getting a royal chewing-out by the one on the left and has had about enough, "Alright alright already! I get it; shut up! Leave me alone!" 

Skua scolding another skua. Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands.Two skuas on Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands, one giving the other a good scolding.

It was very difficult (at least for me) to catch any good photos of the penguins swimming. It was so fun when they swam around our kayaks, flying out of the water in little pods. Here's one I got from the ship deck.

Penguins swimming. Antarctica.

Whenever they congregate in calm, quiet groups (i.e. not stretching their necks and calling loudly into the air), they often make me think of some kind of gentleman's club, haha, like they're smoking cigars and drinking brandy and discussing the latest in politics. Or that smaller groups have gotten together "to discuss this in committee ..." whatever "this" might be. I think in the first pic below, someone said, "Check out that broad over there." Half of them are gawking and the others are like, "Whatever. She's not my type." 

Group of gentoo penguins, Mikkelsen Harbour, Antarctica.Adelie penguins discussing something in committee. Gourdin Island, Antarctica.

Some of the most charismatic penguins are those who stand out alone in a crowd. There is pretty much always one of them in any group -- somebody standing the opposite direction of everybody else, or looking straight at you when nobody else is, or like this adélie below standing alone. The look on its face is terribly funny to me ... kind of confused and quizzical.  

Adelie penguin stands out in the crowd. Gourdin Island, Antarctica.

But the adélies often have the most comical expressions, in my estimation. Their stark eyes and sunken cheeks I think help form their unique expressions, accentuating their beaks and eyes. 

Adelie penguin looking at me, Gourdin Island, Antarctica.Adelie penguin in perfect sliding formation, like an airplane on a snow field. Gourdin Island, Antarctica.This adelie penguin means business. Gourdin Island, Antarctica.

I've mentioned in the other two penguin posts how amusing the penguin highways are to watch. Just the fact that they're truly like little commuter roads similar to what people use is funny for these particularly anthropomorphic creatures. It's one of the most endearing aspects of their lives. So here are few more pics of their commuting life along the penguin highways. 

Penguins commuting back to their nests on a penguin highway. Mikkelsen Harbour, Antarctica.

Gotta look closely to see the little penguin head just sticking up above the surface of the snow, carefully making its way past a seal waiting like a troll on the highway. I envision that the penguin is carrying a little briefcase with him. 

Penguin passing by a seal in a sunken penguin highway. Antarctica.

Off-roading. 

Adelie penguins hiking uphill, Gourdin Island, Antarctica.

One thing particularly fun about holding my finger down on the shutter button on "continuous" shooting mode was seeing the sequences that emerged afterward like those flip-books we (people my age) had as kids or a stop-motion animation or something. Even if the photos come out unfocused and ill-framed, it doesn't matter, the event captured is still ... well, usually hilarious. Sorry, penguins, but everything you do just makes me laugh. For example, here is a sequence of a gentoo penguin biffing it as he's cruising a highway on Brown Bluff.

Gentoo penguin coming down a penguin highway, Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands. The biffing-it series.Gentoo pPenguin coming down a penguin highway, Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands. The biffing-it series.Penguin coming down a penguin highway, Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands. The biffing-it series.Gentoo penguin coming down a penguin highway, Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands. The biffing-it series.Penguin coming down a penguin highway, Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands. The biffing-it series.Penguin coming down a penguin highway, Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands. The biffing-it series.Gentoo penguin coming down a penguin highway, Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands. The biffing-it series. And he's back up! Like nothing happened. 

Penguin coming down a penguin highway, Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands. The biffing-it series.

And as we've already learned, all this commuting between their rocky nests inland and the ocean waters is to feed themselves so they can produce, incubate, hatch, feed and raise their chicks during the short summers in Antarctica. These little fuzzballs .....

Gentoo penguin chick crying out with its sibling curled up behind him. Yankee Harbour, South Shetland Islands.Gentoo penguin chick and parent looking at each other. Yankee Harbor, South Shetland Islands.Gentoo penguin nestling squawking for food. Yankee Harbor, South Shetland Islands.

..... will grow into these charismatic characters. I have to say I love the gentoos the most. They have a certain attitude about them that's just incomparable anywhere else in the animal kingdom with which I'm familiar.  This guy: "I'm a penguin!" I've posted some of these pics on my Facebook page and they've received some excellent captions ... have fun making up your own. :) Gentoo penguin, Mikkelsen Harbour, Antarctica. Look at me! I am a penguin!Gentoo penguin calling out to a mate. Mikkelsen Harbor, Antarctica.

Attitude! I got some good caption suggestions for these, but to me the first penguin is clearly scolding its spouse or child for messing up that rock somehow. "Look here, mister! Just look what you've done. I told you not to make a mess, now clean it up!" And the next penguin thinks he's a total bad-ass. 

Gentoo penguin with attitude. Yankee Harbor, South Shetland Islands.Gentoo penguin with attitude. Yankee Harbor, South Shetland Islands.

But this chinstrap is looking pretty confident with his dapper look. The Sean Connery of penguins? 

Chinstrap penguin who knows he looks dapper. Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands.Chinstrap penguin portrait. Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands.

The anatomical part of the various Antarctic penguin species that I love most is their feet. Why their feet? Well they do stand out for their size, and especially on the gentoos and adélies with their bright color. But their endearing quality is the sound they make slapping along on the snow or in the puddles of melted snow. I loved when I'd be looking one direction photographing, and then I would hear the pitter patter of penguin feet coming up behind me, I'd turn around and there they were, stopped behind me or carrying on walking beside me. I'll just never forget that special, unique sound. It fits their character so well. Here are a couple shots showing off those goofy floppy feet. 

Gentoo penguin showing off his floppy orange feet. Yankee Harbor, South Shetland Islands.Chinstrap penguin scratching an itch with his big floppy foot. Brown Bluff, South Shetland Islands.

Probably the most revealing thing I can say about Antarctica is that I typically do not travel to the same country more than once. There have been exceptions. It's not because I think I've tapped out any one country -- heavens, no, I'm not even close, not even my own country -- it's just that the planet is so huge and there's so much more to sample. I guess I'm a gal who seeks the big picture. So I spend a few weeks in this country and then that country, and then I look at a globe and see how many others there are, and just have a hard time going backward. And if I do revisit a country, I generally see different regions and sights than the first time. However, I would happily repeat this Antarctica trip, even the exact same itinerary. To many people, Antarctica sounds like just a frozen wasteland, but oh my goodness, what silly people. It's truly a remarkable place. 

Iconic Antarctica ... penguin on the floating ice. This fella looks rather forlorn, wondering what happened to his buddies. "Hey guys?" It's sad and comical at the same time. I just want to  pick him up and hug him. Goodbye Antarctica! 

Lone penguin on floating ice in the Southern Ocean. Antarctica. *

See more penguins in the Penguin Diaries Part 1

See more penguins in the Penguin Diaries Part 2

Read more adventures in Antarctica

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