November 2018  In the dank cold of early morning, we climb a steep-sided sand dune near Volunteer Point, a squiggle of land protruding into the South Atlantic from the coast of East Falkland Island. We’re up early, hoping to catch our first glimpse of the resident colony of King Penguins. Atop the dune we watch the sun rise above the froth of waves racing to shore.  Soon we spot a parade of black-and-white creatures slowly marching towards us.  From time to time, they stop, pivot towards the sea and stare into the distance. Then they resume their march.

Are they performing a collective ablution ceremony in the manner of devout Hindus gathered at the Ganges? Or just keeping a wary eye out for the predatory sea lion known to prowl these waters?  Either explanation seems plausible as we watch the penguins alternately dive into the waves, then flee them. What makes the scene wondrous is the stately beauty of the birds, in formal attire, with splashes of yellow and orange at their throats. They’re big birds too, often waist-high. After the Emperor Penguins of Antarctica, King Penguins are the largest in the world.

The several days we spent at Volunteer Point are the highlights of the 2018 journey we took to points south, with stops in Mexico City, Santiago, Easter Island and, most memorably, the Falklands, a windswept archipelago at the nethermost tip of South America.

We visited remote islands by air on little Falkland government planes. On Pebble Island we found large colonies of rockhopper penguins that navigate steep boulder-strewn slopes as if bounding on trampolines.  On Carcass Island we visited dense concentrations of gentoo penguins, whose elegant, waterproof  coats remind one of violinists in an orchestra.  Everywhere we stumbled across burrows dug by Magellanic penguins, the first penguins to be observed by Charles Darwin.  And then, after a rough 4X4 overland drive, we arrived at Volunteer Point….

J. Madeleine Nash


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Carcass Island

Volunteer Point