Half-a-Million Penguins

More from the Antarctica notebook.

The next impossible photo to capture is the one that conveys what it feels like to stumble upon half-a-million penguins, which is what we did at St. Andrews Bay in the South Georgia Islands.

St. Andrews Bay was cut by two glaciers, which are now in retreat, leaving a wide gravel shore that is home to a massive king penguin colony. We learned that this is one of the largest penguin colonies in the world, holding roughly half-a-million penguins during its peak season (December and January). Quiet simply, visiting this many animals all at once boggles the mind, body and spirit.

But how do you capture this experience photographically? Again the internet provides lots of good attempts (image search “st andrews bay south georgia penguins“). Here’s one of my favorites from National Geographic:

And here’s one of my own photos taken from the gravel beach looking out across the colony:

While these images capture the density of the colony quite nicely, neither gives a sense of its expanse. Hopefully these photos do just that:

I took these photos from the deck of the ship as we sailed away from St. Andrews Bay. The first photo really tells the whole story: the multi colored specs at the bottom are penguins (!!); the massively retreating glacier in the middle of the photo is Heaney Glacier; and Sheridan Peak is at the top.

The second image was ‘nested’ in the first, and the third image ‘nested’ in the second, hopefully providing a three-step zoom effect on this landscape.

In the end I fared better at this task than the Penguins Porpoising, which in retrospect remains the true Holy Grail of Antarctica photography.

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