Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Sunday with the Emperor(s)

Sunday.  My day off.  Finally, a chance to sleep in a bit, relax, not be off and out the door at 5:45 like the other days.  McMurdo is quiet, a bit overcast and little blustery.  The wind generators on the hill are some of the only sounds as they crank away about the town. 
Looking out from Hut Point Peninsula over Mcmurdo Sound
A short walk down the hill and out to Hut Point Peninsula to help clear the head is always nice.  Our fuel tanker is on its way in the channel as well to dock finally this morning as well.  It going to be a busy "day off" for some of our folks here today.
A look back at "Mactown"
So I hiked back into town and headed in to see what was going on.  The recreation department runs a nice program for folks if interested on Sundays and after work during the week as well to help the pass time here.  If there is any wildlife in the vicinity they'll provide transportation on their day off out to the site around town and allow you to photograph and take in the sights as long as you want. 

Today...Penguins!  Yes the mighty emperor has wandered inland a ways.  The month of January is typically when they are molting (shedding their feathers) and growing a new coat.  They tend to wander inland away from the colony, pick a knoll, and open spot and simply not move for about a month, don't eat, leave their pile of feathers behind and then finally wander back and return to the sea.  If you want to read more on the breed, check out this site

We drove about 20 minutes out of town on the ice shelf to where one of the larger groups seemed to pick their spot.  Not sure why this little hill, maybe the flag, maybe a little wind break--not sure.  They seem happy though, staring off into the distance pondering whatever they ponder.  They are about 3 1/2' tall, the largest penguins in the world, fairly quiet in this setting and extremely stoic.

Enough of me, now on with the pictures!

A good example of a molting pair.  Nice mohawk.

Playing "King of the Hill".  All the dark spots on the hill are their feathers.

So that was pretty amazing.  Under the Antarctic Treaty, unless in direct support of science, you can't get any closer than 25' of wildlife.  These guys could care less that we were there.  They had little inquisitive looks, like "why are you out here?" but our presence had no impact on them.  With no natural predator out of the water, we were just another group of penguins to them. 

Just another great experience to chalk up for here.  I hope this doesn't get routine that I don't truly appreciate what I am getting to see and do.  These encounters are amazing.  Now off to the rest of Sunday.  Take care all, talk to you again soon!  Hope you like the pics.

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