Penguins - hallmark residents of the Antarctic
With their wings remodelled as fins, penguins are ideally suited to life in water. Their "underwater flight", the streamlined form of their body and their manoeuvrability when swimming and diving make it possible for them to hunt their main prey - krill, fish and octopus. This manoeuvrability also allows them to quickly escape their main predators, leopard seals and killer whales. They only come ashore or onto the ice to reproduce, raise their chicks and moult. An impressive spectacle awaits you when you land on one of the shore areas of South Georgia on a Zodiac: several hundred thousand king penguins standing there, packed closely together. A closely knit tapestry of colourful heads with the typical orange stripes. Many have an egg nestled under the feathery bulge of their stomach folds, which is incubated for 54 days until the chick emerges. Stray chicks which have already hatched pester their parents for food. By contrast, Adelie penguins, which can be identified by the white ring around their eyes, can be seen holding a feeding race for their young: at the end of the 100 m (328 ft) race, one chick will be fed whilst the chick in second place and any others will be turned away. Their "neighbours" also make life difficult for them: other penguins tirelessly steal stones from neighbouring pebble nests in order to make their own homes more comfortable. There are estimated to be around 7.5 million chinstrap penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula and the islands off the coast. They breed on cliffs and hillsides as well as on the coast. The breeding sites of gentoo penguins, whose cries will make their presence known from afar, are no less animated. Their cries sound like those of donkeys. Their chicks emerge after just five weeks, leave their parents after almost three months and disappear into the sea.