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The Penguin Diaries - 16 of 36

Tuesday, 27 February 2001
"...Saying goodbye to penguins and skuas..."

Today is our final full day at Cape Shirreff. We're busy closing up camp: wrapping everything in plastic so it won't mildew over winter, inventorying everything, & consuming things that won't last over winter. I need to head out one last time to say goodbye to the penguins & skuas, although many of them have already left. Yesterday we conducted a chick carcass count on all of the beaches on the east side of the cape (where the current from our colonies flows) and found a total of over 700 chicks that didn't make it - leopard seal predation is their main challenge, but we were also hit with a brutal windstorm on the peak day of fledging. The 40-60 mph winds kept us trapped inside. We were convinced the little fledgers would be too scared of the waves to take their first plunge, but I guess when they are hungry & it's time to go, there's no stopping them. We had a hell of a time trying to catch 200 banded fledgers having missed the peak day when over 50% left. Our departure tomorrow comes 3 days earlier than originally scheduled. The AERG ship decided to pick us up a few days early in case we get hit with bad weather like last week. That will give us a bit of a buffer to get to port on time. I guess moorage on the dock in Punta Arenas is extremely expensive & limited, so we can't be late. We're hoping the weather will be good & they won't abandon us here. We get to swing by King George Island to pick up another field camp. It will be nice to see another site. I'm not looking forward to a 7 day cruise to Punta Arenas -especially the 3 day crossing of the Drake Passage. I didn't fare so well the first time across. This time we have a bigger & more stable boat. We'll see how it goes. I may have e-mail access from the boat, but I won't know until we get on. Until then I'll be out of reach. The "island" e-mail address is defunct as of tomorrow, but I will check my hotmail & AOL accounts when I get to Chile on March 5, so you can reach me there.  I'm looking forward to a fun 3 weeks of travel in Chilean Patagonia, then a busy spring of work for WMI & NOLS. I hope all is well up north. Sorry this last report is short & boring. We're in closing mode. I'm looking forward to my final walk to the penguin colonies in the mist & rain. Thanks for following along in my 4 month stint in the Antarctic. Take care.

Love, Iris 

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