26 October, 2003
A Sunday Outing to the Penguin Ranch
Today, we went as a group over to the Penguin Ranch. It is an hour and a half drive by pisten bully, over a recently flagged road. Not too many people get to come out here so I feel quite fortunate to be able to share some pictures. This year the ice is very thick close to town so they located the ranch at a thinner section far away. The penguin ranch is an area where young wandering penguins are kept for scientific study. They are essentially Penguin Napped using snowmobiles and Shepard hooks, or even sometimes flown in by helicopter in giant plastic garbage bins (they sit in the helicopter). Here they stay for a short while as scientists attach electronic recorders on their backs to sense physiology as they dive. There is a corral and two diving holes. There are no other holes close by so all the penguins must come up where they dive down, which makes studying them possible.
The emperor penguin can live at least 20 years. It is possible to see large colonies of penguins on the sea ice while flying over the coastline from as high as thirty thousand feet. They huddle together to stay warm. The females lay eggs in the winter which the males will then incubate while the female goes away for the next few months. Information can be found at this website:
Famous to one of Scott's expeditions is the first recovery of emperor eggs at Cape Crozier during a winter stay.
Watching these birds is very interesting, they seem to communicate largely by following what the other one does, and somehow one bird decides that it is time to do something. One penguin is very wary of the ice hole, and does not want to enter it all. He just looks in as the others go for feeding dives. Occasionally he falls in, but refuses to dive and scrambles back out of the hole like a child who is afraid of cold water. This penguin looks like it will be released soon.
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