Port Lockroy

P-51727_portlockroy5Another cold overcast morning greeted us as we lined up to board the zodiacs. As it worked out, Steve and I were brought ashore on our own by the expedition geologist, Wayne Ranney, who was doubling as a zodiac driver. Since it was just the 3 of us, Wayne took a detour to some great looking blue icebergs he’d found earlier. We had some time to just drift around the forms.P-51719_portlockroy1 P-51723_portlockroy2 P-51725_portlockroy3It is difficult to believe these colors are real – let alone the strange shapes they take. Even as I sit here writing, I keep questioning whether this was actually the color I saw. It may be off a little, but this is how I remember it.P-51726_portlockroy4 P-51729_portlockroy6 P-51740-43_PortLockroy7Ah, but the fun had to end some time. Actually, no it didn’t. Because the next thing we did was land at the island base. What the penguins study does here is allow tourists to visit the rookery on this side of the island, while keeping  the rookeries on the other side free of people. They observe and measure the birds emotional reactions to determine what effect our presence has on their behavior.P-51857_portlockroy22Not much by what this amateur observer observed. The birds are just hanging out on virtually every rocky outcropping. Well, actually they are quite busy doing all the things we’ve seen them do in other rookeries. Stealing rocks, defending their nests, moving to and from the water.P-51776_portlockroy12 P-51790_portlockroy13 So, how do they measure emotional reactions? When a german contingent was studying penguins many years ago, they did it by capturing a bird, implanting sensors in it and putting it back on it’s nest. From there, the researchers would hide behind a sheet very near the nest, jump out from behind it to see what the reaction was. They determined that people scare penguins.P-51814_portlockroy15The British did it differently. They would take an egg from a nest and replace it with a false egg containing the sensors, then just walk nearby at various distances from the birds. They determined that about 15′ before behavior was affected. Thus the 15′ buffer we needed to observe.
P-51818_portlockroy16 P-51751_portlockroy8 P-51754_portlockroy10A new bird I hadn’t seen on this trip so far was here in abundance. It is know as the Snowy Sheth-bill. They are nice looking birds from a distance, but learning a little about them makes them a little less attractive. Like other birds (other than penguins) their food source is mainly penguin chicks and eggs. They also subsist on penguin poop. P-51824_portlockroy17What I found unusual though was how calm the penguins were with the sheeth-biils all around. In other rookeries, the penguins were actively defending and going after the skua’s. Here they just seemed less concerned. Perhaps the poop the sheth-bills consume keeps them a bit more satiated.P-51762_portlockroy11 P-51856_portlockroy20 P-51858_portlockroy21 P-51878_portlockroy22 P-51798_portlockroy14I was actually able to get even closer to the birds here. They just seemed so much more relaxed. Quite a few had eggs in their nest and one had a chick that popped out once or twice. it was great to get a peek.P-51887_portlockroy23 P-51894_portlockroy25 P-51889_portlockroy24P-51916_portlockroy26After a couple of hours at the base, it was time to head back to the ship and begin the journey home. Down at the loading site, evidence of the bygone whaling industry that flourished here for so many years, could be viewed along the rocky shore . We departed that very evening. My last post of the trip will cover our final stop.

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