The Gerlache Strait lies between Anvers Island and the Danco Coast in Antarctica, just as you enter the Antarctic Circle. It was first named by Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlache in 1898.
It is famous for its stunning views of towering icebergs and snow-capped mountains and is a popular spot for tourists who visit to see the magnificent scenery and to spot the humpback whales which abound in these frigid waters.
It was here that a boatload of tourists witnessed an extraordinary sight, straight from a wildlife documentary.
A pod of killer whales were diving in the water, swimming close to the tourist boats. Then, their whole attitude changed when they spotted a Gentoo penguin swimming in the sea.
Tour leader Matthew Karsten of adventure travel and photography company, Expert Vagabond takes up the story.
“The orcas appeared playful at first, even swimming right up to the camera to say ‘hello,’” he says. “But then they were all business when the penguin appeared. It was like watching a National Geographic episode on location. I imagine the penguin was very relieved to get away.”
At first, the penguin swam away frantically with the orcas in hot pursuit. It circled the Zodiac inflatable boats then realized that its only means of escape was to jump into one. Which it did — with a helping hand from one of the tourists.
After awhile the penguin decided that it was now all clear and hopped back into the water. We hope that the tourists didn’t feel too bad about cheating the orcas out of their lunch.
Incidentally, Gentoo penguins are monogamous and mate for life. Should one of the males tire of this lifestyle and decide to cheat on his missus, he is kicked out of the colony. So had our penguin been a naughty boy? Even so, being eaten alive by killer whales seems a rather draconian punishment.