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