Everybody knows the ‘big five’ of the African savannah. The five large animals everybody wants to see during a visit to Africa. Antarctica doesn’t have an official big five, but it’s quite easy to make one. In the next posts I’ll go into the five species (groups) everybody wants to see.
The first one is of course penguins. Even though most of 17 species of penguin will never see Antarctica, everybody immediately connects penguins with Antarctica. Three species of penguin are commonly seen on the Antarctic Peninsula, the most visited part of Antarctica: The Gentoo, Adelie and Chinstrap Penguin. In the Gerlache area, where the majority of the ships spent most of their time, the Gentoo Penguin is by far the most common species. To see other species of penguins, one has to go further South (to see Adelie Penguins) or to the South Shetlands, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula. Here one can find significant colonies of Chinstraps and even an occasional Macaroni Penguin.
The species highest on the wish list (so it should actually be in the Antarctic Big Five) is the Emperor Penguin. However, this is by far the least likely species to be found on the Peninsula as there are no colonies nearby. To increase the chance for that species, one must go to either the Weddell Sea or the Ross Sea, two areas rarely visited by most ships.