This week at Mawson: 7 December 2018

Success: planets align for Emperor penguin census

Third trip to Taylor Rookery

Isn’t it nice when all the planets align for some rare opportunities to happen? We were so fortunate to get a fantastic weather window and suitable sea ice conditions that allowed us to access the Taylor colony of Emperor penguins.

The 'Colbeck Party' (named after the hut where we stayed overnight) consisted of Pete K, Pat J, Mark S, Anna L, Marcus S and two Hägglunds. We traversed 90km in just over five hours with blue skies and hardly a breath of wind.

The great thing about 24 hour light means we still had plenty of time to access the Emperor penguin colony to service the remote monitoring cameras, retrieve photos from their SD cards, and take additional colony-wide photos with DSLR cameras. We then enjoyed a nice evening together in the hut and exploring the nearby surrounds before driving the 90km back to station.

The photos will be used to count the Emperor penguin chicks and determine how successful the breeding season has been this year. It is rare to get colony-wide photos at this time of year, because the deteriorating sea ice often prevents vehicles from travelling so far along the Antarctic coastline.

The great thing about getting photos at this time of year is there are mostly chicks in the colony, with only a few adults, which makes it much easier to get an accurate count of the chicks (there are fewer adults obscuring the view of chicks). So we have had yet another successful Antarctic adventure in the name of science.

Marcus Salton
Vertebrate Biologist 

5 people pose on the sea ice
Team Colbeck on the sea ice: L-R Anna, Mark, Hoot, Pat and…
(Photo: Marcus Salton)
Emperor Penguin chicks at the Rookery
Emperor Penguin chicks at the Rookery
(Photo: Marcus Salton)
A man takes photos of the penguin colony
Marcus takes census photos of the colony
(Photo: Marcus Salton)
2 men and penguins on the ice
Mark and Peter out on the sea ice with the second group…
(Photo: Patrick James)
Yellow Hagg on the sea ice
Yellow Hagg on the sea ice
(Photo: Marcus Salton)
Orange Hagg passes an iceberg on the sea ice
Orange Hagg passes an iceberg on the sea ice
(Photo: Patrick James)
Team Colbeck and their Haggs on the ice enjoying the sunshine
Team Colbeck and their Haggs on the ice enjoying the sunshine
(Photo: Marcus Salton)