Our first landing of the day was at the Cuverville Island. We had two choices – either do a painfully steep hike up to the top of the mountain to see panoramic views of the landscapes or spend time walking near the island shores to see the colonies of Gentoo penguins.
Cuverville Island supports one of the largest known gentoo penguin colonies. This can be apparent from miles away given the right wind direction. Early in the season, snow cover impedes but doesn’t stop penguins accessing their nests and an intricate network of “penguin highways” is carved into the snow. The shallow waters between Cuverville and Rongé islands often trap and ground icebergs. Up from the rookery at Cuverville, steep cliffs lead to the island top. The cliffs are also home to skuas that are vigorous in defending their well-hidden nests.
We decided to do the latter. Although the walk was only about half a mile, the penguins are sure to entertain you, leaving you standing in one place for hours, not realizing the time passing by. The antics of the penguins are just clumsy and cute – the way they walk up and down the glaciers, the way they look at you, the way they fall on the glaciers while walking, the way they jump on the rocks – all too cute.
There were a handful of Gentoo penguins and just one Chinstrap penguin on an iceberg, not too far away from the coast. It was funny to see how the Chinstrap penguin dominated for space on top of the iceberg, squeaking at every other Gentoo penguin that tried to jump to the top of the iceberg. A few of these penguins jumped in and out of the water. A few others slipped from the iceberg and fell into the water. A few others that tried to jump on the ice-berg from the water couldn’t hold on to the iceberg and slipped and fell back into the water. We spent an hour just watching its activities.
The landscapes around were just breathtaking – glacier covered mountains, lots of icebergs on the ocean and these penguins on the island, on the icebergs and swimming underwater with a lot of agility.
After spending a good two hours on the island, we took the zodiac back to our ship. On the way back, our zodiac drive, aka expedition team member slowed down by a couple of humongous icebergs. These massive white icebergs, the unique formations, when you look underwater, sometimes when the water is clear, you can see the bottom of the iceberg. Pretty scary sight actually, but very cool! The turquoise blue color in certain parts of the icebergs – ah, all too classic!