This week at Mawson: 30 May 2008

With plenty of sensational photographs taken at Auster Rookery over the past two weeks, we've decided to focus this week's Icy News station update on the Emperor Penguin Project.

With the help of all at Mawson station, Gary and Robyn have all but completed a successful sampling session of 100 adult emperor penguins.

Full moon rising over Auster Rookery at 3:30 pm.
A full moon rises over Auster Rookery at 3:30 pm.
Photo: Robyn M
Emperor penguin mating pair
Female emperors prepare to leave their mate, who will incubate the egg for around 65 days before it hatches.
Photo: Robyn M

The twelve days at Auster Rookery have been all go, racing against the breeding cycle as each day sees a trail of females, having entrusted their egg to the guardianship of their mate, leave the rookery to head out to sea, where they will remain foraging for around 65 days – the time it takes the egg to hatch.

Expeditioners with a captured emperor penguin, while another expeditioner repairs the van
Chippie Graeme makes running repairs to the van's escape hatch, while David, Doc and Gary catch a bird.
Photo: Robyn M
Expeditioners secure a penguin
Gary, David and Doc secure a penguin.
Photo: Robyn M

With the sun rising after midday and setting by 3:30 pm, the work teams have made use of every available moment of daylight and twilight, and, despite temperatures in the mid-minus 20s, have kept warm and enjoyed a relatively good run of calm conditions.

Two Expeditioners haul the sled while another holds a captured emperor penguin in place
Nick holds the emperor in place as Narelle and Gary haul them across to the RMIT van.
Photo: Robyn M
Expeditioners weighing a bird
Weighing-in, with assistance from Zane, Ros and Gary. A 21.6 kg-female was the lightest bird sampled, the heaviest a 35.4 kg-male.
Photo: Robyn M

With some of the larger male emperors weighing in at over 35 kilograms, Gary was forced to make an overnight dash back to station to sew in expansion gussets to his homemade penguin straitjacket. On return to Auster, the work team, led by Gary, quickly developed an efficient system of safely securing and transporting the birds to the RMIT van. There, the bird was weighed, sampled, and identified with a stripe of blue crayon to the belly feathers before being returned to the ice.

Expeditioner gently carrying a bird inside the RMIT van for sampling.
Gary gently carries a bird inside the RMIT van for sampling.
Photo: Robyn M
Expeditioner taking blood sample from the brachial vein of the emperor penguin's flipper.
Robyn takes up to 5ml of blood from the brachial vein of the flipper.
Photo: Graeme F

Today Robyn and Gary head back out to Auster with Andrew 'AJ' and Tony 'Boj', to sample their final seven penguins and complete the first stage of the project.

Cartoon of expeditioners at Auster Rookery
Anyone seen Ros?
Photo: Nick C
Emperor penguin pair
Isn't love Grand
Photo: Graeme F
Emperor penguin in foreground of sunset at Auster Rookery
Sunset at Auster
Photo: Graeme F
Emperor penguins at Auster Rookery
Emperors at Auster
Photo: Graeme F
Expeditioner making repairs to the RMIT van at Auster Rookery
Graeme making a few repairs to the RMIT Van
Photo: Graeme F
Mawson Station's blue Hagglunds on its journey to Auster Rookery
On the way to work
Photo: Graeme F