The emperors' march

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This week at Mawson: 24 May 2013

March of the emperor penguins and breeding time at Auster

Last week I had the privilege of being part of the first group to Auster rookery this season. It is roughly 60 km from Mawson station and has a current population of approximately 4000 emperor penguins. To be bluntly honest, since returning I have thought about it heaps and when asked about it I haven’t said a lot to others for a couple of reasons.

For me, it’s something that has to be experienced. It is not just about seeing the emperor penguins, it is about seeing the abundance of life when we are in such a remote place where life is scarce on the ice. It is about hearing the noises they make as they call out and slap each other with their wings and in the distance a gunshot sound goes off signalling an ice cliff has collapsed or part of an iceberg.

It is the amazement of your own body wearing all these clothes in −25°C and yet, after an hour of taking photos, finding my feet frozen and having to do exercises for 30 minutes just to get feeling back. Yet, here they are, such a hardy animal, braving all elements with a few feathers and bare feet?

Furthermore, the colours and size of the penguins, of the icebergs, the distant ice shelves and the sky could never be stitched together in a picture to truly give a proper illustration of the majestic beauty in the scene that was before us.

Most places I have been in the world, people have worked with animals by creating nature reserves or leaving large areas of natural vegetation. Here I felt we didn’t belong at all, with no rights, or by design, with a feeling of honour for being chosen by my country to be here and be able to witness this event with a huge amount of respect and humbleness as I looked upon nature taking its course.

Until next time,


Mating emperor penguins
A little bit of lovin'
(Photo: Keldyn Francis)
Two standing emperor penguins bask in sunshine close together
Basking in the morning sun
(Photo: Keldyn Francis)
Three emperor penguins meet chest to chest on the ice
(Photo: Keldyn Francis)
A close up of four emperor penguins in a line marching towards the camera
Coming to check out the humans
(Photo: Keldyn Francis)
Four emperor penguins, two standing behind and two squatting on the ice in front seemingly posing for a photo
Family photo
(Photo: Keldyn Francis)
One emperor penguin leans right on the ice for a close up
Happy feet
(Photo: Keldyn Francis)
Photography at Auster - an expeditioner kneels on the ice with his back facing the camera, taking photos of emperor penguins which can be seen in the background
Justin hard at work
(Photo: Keldyn Francis)
Three emperor penguins stay close with the larger colony visible in the background
This is not Madagascar
(Photo: Keldyn Francis)
A close up of two emperor penguins' heads
Zoom in
(Photo: Keldyn Francis)
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