This is probably the post most of you have been waiting for. Generally speaking, the first association with Antarctica seems to be penguins. There are indeed many of them. At the same time, they are not as prominent in this wast landscape as it may seem. On our first day in Antarctica we saw two Gentoo penguins, the next day none and the following day we visited our first penguin colony. A penguin colony is not a territory under political control as my first association with the word colony evokes. At this time of year it's rather a huge penguin dating and mating scene, later it turns into a communal childrearing center. Hundreds to hundred-thousands of penguins gather this time of year after spending their winter, which is our summer, under water to now mate and breed. Most of them find their nests from pervious years and loyally wait for their mates they have a longterm commitment to. Their loyalty correlates to the length of their breeding season. Penguin species with a shorter breeding season are less loyal. They waste little time waiting for their mate from previous years. For Gentoo penguins the divorce rate is only 20% while Chinstrap penguins are divorcing at about 40%.
I found it curious how close together these non flying birds would build their nests. The spacing seemed very intentional, close enough yet not too close. I never found out how they make these decisions and am still curious whether they have a specially developed kinesthetic sense for personal space. Their sight is at its best underwater where their predators live. On land they have no predators. Here, even the leopard seal is too slow for penguins to be a threat.
Their distinct black and white coloring makes them blend in with the rocky and snowy landscape they choose for breeding but the camouflage becomes essential under water. Their white fronts seen from the orca's or leopard seal's perspective in the depth, makes them one with the reflective water surface. Seen from a bird's eyes view, their dark back blends with the dark deep waters.