December 1, 2014

Wildlife in Antarctica

By Noemi Gamel

Last post I discussed the breathtaking landscape vistas available in Antarctica. This week, I wanted to focus on the unique wildlife opportunities the frozen continent has to offer.

Antarctica is a birder’s paradise. Skuas, terns, and albatross are some of the pelagic bird species found here. There is something humbling about seeing some of these amazing birds ride the winds and hunker down during a storm.

While Antarctic wildlife is not particularly diverse, given that few species have adapted to survive in these harsh conditions, the animals found here are abundant. We were fortunate enough to visit several different colonies of penguins and observe a few seals. Because they have no land predators, these animals are not afraid of people. While we respected the rules regarding keeping a respectable distance from the penguins and seals, the animals are not aware of these rules, so they often come up to the people for a closer look (closer as in touching distance).

The kids loved the penguins. They are cute and cuddly but also awe inspiring because of the innate toughness that they must have to survive in Antarctica. We were there during mating season, so of course the kids got a kick at watching the penguins’ mating rituals. If you take your kids to Antarctica, make sure you have “the talk” with them first to prepare.

I was surprised with how much wildlife viewing we had during our Antarctica trip. My preconceived notion that it was a frozen wasteland was quickly dissipated when I saw the pelagic birds, penguins, and seals that made this place their home.