This week at Mawson: 30 November 2018

A sensational visit to Auster emperor penguin rookery

Auster Rookery trip

We departed from Mawson Station in Häggs at around 8:30am, set for the much anticipated three-and-a-bit-hour trip out to the Auster Emperor penguin rookery. I'd heard a lot about this place and its magical nature, but never thought I'd get to experience it.

We stopped occasionally for a photo of a giant iceberg.  The sight of three brightly coloured Häggs travelling over the white and blue frozen sea ice was a glorious sight itself.  We had a beautiful blue-sky day, with limited wind and a touch of streaky cloud to add another dynamic to our photos. 

Mark, Chris and Keiran led the charge in the blue Hägg, with Kiwi, Esther, Curly and Davo in the middle of the convoy in the orange Hägg, leaving Pat, Hoot and myself bringing up the rear in the yellow Hägg. We travelled in a slalom type motion over the frozen sea ice for many kilometres and very soon I learnt that these vehicles are not built for comfort - but I guess that's all part of the experience.

When we arrived at Auster, we parked all 3 Häggs near the shadow of quite a large iceberg, which set the scene for this amazing place.  We were greeted by a small, curious welcome party of Emperor penguins for a quick hello. 

After being welcomed to the rookery, we proceeded down what I can only describe as an iceberg alleyway, where the icebergs are taller than city buildings, like canyons with rows of penguins travelling in single file in and out of the rookery. 

When we entered the open space of the rookery, the penguins were in groups of a few hundred dotted all over the place.  The groups had a mixture of adults and chicks, and as a newbie summerer, I realised it must be late in the season as some of the chicks nearly stood as tall as the adults.

The setting was absolutely breathtaking - the seemingly countless number of penguins, the huge icebergs looming in the background, and the sounds of penguin chicks chirping all around. You don't need to be a professional photographer, or have state-of-the-art camera gear, to capture a beautiful, Nat Geo type image here: just point, shoot and capture whatever is in front of you.

As soon as we got there, everyone seemed to part ways to experience the magic of this place for themselves. We stayed for a few hours taking in the scenery and appreciating the moment before making our way back to the Häggs and the station.

A truly amazing experience, one that will, I am sure, stay with us all forever!

Trent Nichols
Electrican

A group of people walk away from the vehicles near some icebergs
Leaving the Haggs for the rookery. Chris and Pat in foreground
(Photo: Trent Nichols)
Adult Emperor penguins with their iceberg backdrop
Adult Emperor penguins with their iceberg backdrop
(Photo: Trent Nichols)
One adult bird in front of the group poses for a photo
One adult bird in front of the group poses for a photo
(Photo: Trent Nichols)
Chicks are getting bigger, but they're still demanding food
Chicks are getting bigger, but they're still demanding food.
(Photo: Trent Nichols)
Chicks hanging out together and enjoying the sun
Chicks hanging out together and enjoying the sun
(Photo: Trent Nichols)