While visiting the world’s largest King Penguin colony on South Georgia on our Antarctica expedition cruise for Canadian university alumni in November 2022, I happened to see a Southern Giant-Petrel walking among the penguins. This is a large seabird, reminiscent of an albatross but not quite as long-winged, and sporting a more severe appearance. It is known to be a scavenger and sometimes predator. The head on this one was bloodied, obviously from feeding on the remains of some warm-blooded animal, but what? The petrel crossed a little pond where many King Penguins were simply resting when its mere presence caused a general panic. A swath of penguins moved away from the petrel as though expecting it to do them harm. Would it do anything?! I myself panicked while trying to capture the scene and while also gobsmacked. Here, a King Penguin ended up falling towards the petrel while it was actually trying to move away, but slipped in the mud… and remarkably, was able to re-orient its body to face the petrel rather than falling down flat into the mud with back towards its purported foe. Water and mud droplets scattered!
Ultimately the giant-petrel was indifferent and left all these penguins alone- perhaps it had already had its fill of flesh elsewhere! It was a thrilling moment of nature that I felt fortunate to witness, and is just one of the many dramatic moments that travellers have the opportunity to witness as we visit some of the most remote places in the world.
Many spontaneous moments await us on our 2024 Epic Antarctica with the Falklands and South Georgia expedition cruise. Click here to learn more.