Late last evening we anchored close to Yalour islands. Arriving in the dark to a place that over the last years more often than not has been filled with large amounts of ice, was in itself an impressive experience. As was waking up to another calm morning. Sure – this time of the year comes with shifting winds, occasional horizontal snow and dropping temperatures – but it also comes with a sense of freedom. It might not be obvious if you dont know the feeling of sinking up to our knees in the snow with every step you take – the despair as you try to fill up the holes so no penguin can fall in – while creating two new ones for every hole you manage to erase. It might not feel like a priviledge to wander around on your own without leaving traces – but here in the far South it surely is. Solid snow gives the freedom to move.
In the afternoon we find the same solid freedom in Port Charcot. Meanwhile the wind has picked up, quite a bit, and our freedom comes with a freezing cold wind, a wavy zodiac ride and the challenge to look through binoculars will they are trying to blow out of your hands. Ofcourse we go. Even though it is not entirely clear what more we could possibly see. Have we not by now encountered all combinations of penguins ice and rocks? No, we have not.
In the middle of all the solid snow we pass some bare rocks with Gentoo penguins. A small island in the white. And on this island we encounter all stages of penguins. Snow must have melted late this year, much too late for a reasonable breeding season at Port Charcot. We see a Gentoo with an egg, one with two tiny chicks, another with a slightly larger one and even a pair working on making an egg. Knowing these tiny, unborn and unmade chicks will not survive the winter is off course not the happiest of thoughts - but it gives us an insight in the nature of things changing.