Penguins on a Useless Bay

There is a king penguin colony on Tierra del Fuego and I got to visit it when I was there. Apparently, king penguins showed up on this shoreline a little over tens years ago and began returning to nest. Initially, when people came to see the penguins they got too close to them and scared many of them away as they are not comfortable around people. The people that owned this land took an interest in protecting them and eventually opened a park so that the penguins can be viewed by the turistas from a distance without being too disturbed in the process and I am sure that it was somewhat financially lucrative as well. They cleverly named the king penguin park: Parque Pingüino Rey (King Penguin Park) and now American eco-tourists can show up on a bus, walk down to the hide and observe the penguins along the shore of the bay. They have since renamed the place Reserva Natural Pingüino Rey. Below you can see the park sign with the bird blind and penguins in the background.

The king penguin is the second largest penguin and likes to hang out on subantarctic islands around the Southern Ocean and south parts of the other oceans, wherever that line is drawn. They are second in size to the emperor penguin, which had to have an even grander sounding name I suppose. To feed, the king penguins swim out into the ocean and dive down looking for squid, krill, and lanternfish (according to Wikipedia). They can apparently dive for close to 10 minutes and reach depths of greater than 100 meters. But it is not all splashing and fun for them as they are also hunted in the ocean by orcas and seals as well as on land by other birds, especially the young. In spite of their troubles with people that has brought down their numbers in the past, they are apparently doing well today as a species and have a conservation status of Least Concern. Below is a photo of the penguins with Bahía Inútil (Useless Bay) in the background.

I am not sure how many penguins call this particular colony home, but I think it is somewhere between 50 and 100. I could see more of them down in the waves either coming home or preparing to head out. The penguins up in the colony area seemed to be laying about or watching after the young ones and about every minute or so they would all decide to sing a squawky song together. The young ones are covered in dark gray feathers and don’t get their smart looking tuxedoes until they come of age after a year or so. In the photo below, one of the penguins poses for the camera as the others ignore me.

The landowner that started this park was apparently a sheep rancher, and as far as I can tell, just about every landowner on Tierra del Fuego is a sheep rancher. So, there were sheep and penguins together as nature intended. Though I can’t say they lived in complete harmony. It appeared that neither the penguins nor the sheep knew what do think about each other. The guy in the photo below seems to be a bit irritated by the presence of the sheep but tolerated it anyway.

Eventually our errant sheep came upon a gang of penguins and had to stop and consider his next move. The penguins squawked and the sheep did not seem to understand the meaning of the squawking. The sheep made a few more steps and the penguins retreated. The sheep didn’t stick around to gloat and the penguins continued to practice their squawky song.

Sheep vs. Penguin

For some reason, the guy shooting these photos was shooting handheld at 800mm focal length and using a shutter speed of only 1/800s of a second. I asked him about it and neither of us could figure out what he was thinking and why he didn’t bump it up a little bit, but if you zoom in close you will see a little motion blur. When will that guy learn how to use a camera?

As I mentioned above, the body of water in the distance is called Bahía Inútil, which means “Useless Bay” in English, and you may be wondering why someone would name a bay Useless. The penguins apparently find it to be quite useful, but a ship captain named Philip Park King did not. He explored it in 1827 and found that “As it affords neither anchorage nor shelter, nor any other advantage for the navigator, we have named it Useless Bay. It was too much exposed to the prevailing winds to allow of our landing to examine the country, and its productions, or to communicate with the Indians; and as there was not much likelihood of finding anything of novel character, we lost no time in retreating from so exposed a place.” And this name stuck.

A Link to an Image on Wikipedia

There is a steady wind that blows inland off the bay and I suppose that would make it tough for a sailing ship, so perhaps that is why there aren’t any ports on this bay. Perhaps that is for the best though as there is a nice penguin colony here now which is more interesting to photograph than a sea port.

I saw a row boat as I was wandering the path and thought it made a good photo. I was not allowed to get any closer to it to change the perspective like I would have wanted, but I think it works OK. The stream that the boat is floating on is called Rio Marazzi and here it is finally finding its way into the bay.

A Boat Near the Shore of Bahía Inútil in Tierra del Fuego

And if you had any doubts about the strong constant wind blowing from the west, I will leave you with this photo that I took on the way back along the north shore of Useless Bay. This was actually taken on a calm day. Thanks for reading.

Windswept Tree in Tierra del Fuego

23 thoughts on “Penguins on a Useless Bay

  1. How kind of the penguins to serenade you with their squawking, I mean singing.
    Love the penguin who posed for you. He wants to be a star!
    Never thought of sheep and penguins living together. Fun pics of them confronting each other. They turned out well, even if that crazy guy with the camera didn’t know what he was doing. LOL!
    Great pics and interesting to learn a bit of history as well.
    Wow on the wind! I may have been blown away.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Either than penguin wanted to be a star or he was having a Leonardo DeCaprio Titanic moment.

      The wind there is kind of brutal but it calmed down for my visit. I think it is a weather phenomenon related to the mountains in the west. The sheep don’t seem to mind though.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Nice. Always amazing that nature seems to find a where to tolerate diversity and harmony, yet we humans fail miserably. One of your blog posts have to be outtakes of this trip. There must be a few pics. SMILE……

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I like the penguins and the sheep. Seems to a conversation of some sort, but sort of like the bus driver in Singapore responding to my query in Mandarin. 800mm by hand at any speed, I’m impressed. I’m happy just to get the horizon reasonably level.

    Boy… that last photo says a lot! Extraordinarily well composed… though not so much the shelter, or what’s left of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The lens vibration reduction and body image stabilization are the heroes I suppose. There is no way i could have held it that steady without help.

      I wonder if the bricks from the building were scavenged for other structures

      Liked by 1 person

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