Bailey Head, Deception Island, Antarctica

Bailey Head, Deception Island, Antarctic Peninsula

Chinstrap penguins at Bailey Head, Deception Island.  Chinstrap penguins enter and exit the surf on the black sand beach at Bailey Head on Deception Island.  Bailey Head is home to one of the largest colonies of chinstrap penguins in the world, Pygoscelis antarcticus

Chinstrap penguins at Bailey Head, Deception Island. Chinstrap penguins enter and exit the surf on the black sand beach at Bailey Head on Deception Island. Bailey Head is home to one of the largest colonies of chinstrap penguins in the world.
Image ID: 25455
Species: Chinstrap Penguin, Pygoscelis antarcticus
Location: Deception Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

The forecast for this morning was not encouraging: winds up to 35 knots which would generate waves large enough to shut down our ability to land on this steep, exposed, black-sand beach. However, at 6am we found relatively calm seas and little wind at Deception Island, with a smallish swell that caused a little anxiety and some minor mishaps with the zodiacs due to the very steep beach but was not enough to keep us from landing ashore. Bailey Head is a large volcanic plug towering over a long, beautiful black sand beach. Cliffs run the length of the beach. Penguins occupy the edge of the beach for several hundred yards, a mass of black-and-white specks on a black expanse of sand. Seemingly endless columns of chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarcticus) waddle back and forth between the beach and the rim of the volcano that comprises the island.

Sunrise in the South Shetland Islands, near Deception Island

Sunrise in the South Shetland Islands, near Deception Island.
Image ID: 25459
Location: Deception Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Distant icebergs, mountains, clouds, ocean at dawn, in the South Shetland Islands, near Deception Island

Distant icebergs, mountains, clouds, ocean at dawn, in the South Shetland Islands, near Deception Island.
Image ID: 25460
Location: Deception Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

On the beach, chinstraps nervously gather together waiting for a moment when they can rush en masse down the slope to plunge into the water, swimming rapidly through the shallows to avoid a leopard seal that patrols the shore. What I am seeing is a fascinating spectacle. The sheer number of chinstrap penguins and the constant flow of animals between the heights above and the surf below is impressive. Light rain and some wind comes and goes during our four hours ashore. The light is flat, making for difficult photography. I shoot a few time lapse series, hoping to illustrate the nature of the movement of the many penguins, but it is not easy since we are constrained from going up on the hills above the penguin highway for a better look for fear of displacing the animals from their route. I also shoot some video which will probably be more appealing than the photos, since the video captures the cacophony of the birds and the sounds of the surf. By 11am I am back in a zodiac headed for the boat. I skipped the novelty visit to the hot springs after lunch due to the declining weather. Instead, we watched the hardier folks swimming in the mix of hot springs and icy ocean water, under falling snow and blowing wind. Hard core.

Chinstrap penguins at Bailey Head, Deception Island.  Chinstrap penguins enter and exit the surf on the black sand beach at Bailey Head on Deception Island.  Bailey Head is home to one of the largest colonies of chinstrap penguins in the world, Pygoscelis antarcticus

Chinstrap penguins at Bailey Head, Deception Island. Chinstrap penguins enter and exit the surf on the black sand beach at Bailey Head on Deception Island. Bailey Head is home to one of the largest colonies of chinstrap penguins in the world.
Image ID: 25456
Species: Chinstrap Penguin, Pygoscelis antarcticus
Location: Deception Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

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