A stroll to Gardner Island
One fine Sunday, the forecast was absolutely sensational and a group of us decided we’d walk a few kilometres across the sea ice to Gardner Island. First we obtained the approval, gathered our kit, grabbed some snacks and turned our fire tags (more on that another time). Off we headed:
It really doesn’t look that far from the station because the visibility is so amazing. What seems 500 metres away in suburban Australia is actually 3-4 kilometres away down here. We’d packed appropriately though, with our mandatory survival kit (quite a comprehensive thing) and plenty of high-energy snacks for trudging across the snow. On this particular day, it was not unlike walking through soft sand with regard to how much energy was required.
As we neared our destination, we saw a few penguins in a group heading towards the water at the edge of the sea ice. As per AAD policy, we kept more than our minimum distance away and waited for them to continue on their merry way. A few hundred metres later we started to approach another group, so again we halted.
This time, the group of penguins came towards us. To prevent our retreat, the first group of penguins and swung around and was now behind us. Both were closing in fast.
Penguins in Antarctica don’t suffer from predation on land. This makes them fearless and amazingly curious, so while we maintained the minimum separation distance, the penguins decided to disregard the rules. We all remained still and waited for them to pass, so they took the opportunity to come and look even closer at us.
We managed to make it to our goal and take a few photos after being besieged by penguins for a bit. Once their curiosity was sated, they moved on and left us to our walk. It took another pause on our way out as a group doubled back on us and trapped our group again. They actually run towards you faster if you try to get away!
So as you can see, it was an enjoyable walk and we had plenty of visitors. Next time I’ll wear black and white, and perhaps they won’t chase me as I try to leave them to their business.