Sunday, January 13, 2019

Penguins!

Okay, well a penguin.  An Emperor penguin showed up along the Willie Field ice road not far out of McMurdo.  He first appeared on one side of the road but when a storm with high winds moved into the Ross Ice Shelf, he moved to the other side of the road to find shelter behind an ice berm.  Smart guy!  I took the picture below using a telephoto lens. I was probably over 150 feet away.  He is probably 2-3 feet tall.

This gives a perspective of how tall they are.
The flag on the left is about 5-6 feet tall.

I guess they molt far away from the water so they are not tempted to go into the freezing cold for food before their feathers are once again waterproof (a layman's description of what goes on).  Others got closer but still kept the 40 feet away from the little guy.  


Kind of minding his own business keeping out
of the wind and drifting snow.

Adelie penguins have been spotted near Hut Point, just a short walk from my dorm, however they were gone by the time I got down there this evening.  But I've been assured other will appear once the water opens up.

Speaking of that, while I didn't see any Adelie penguins, I did see the Coast Guard ice breaker, albeit a ways out.  I now have a sense of how someone stranded on an island might feel after seeing a rescue ship on the horizon.  I thought to myself, "We're saved!" but realized that might be a bit melodramatic, especially since I'll be flying out of here.  

The ice breaker should arrive here in the next week.  It takes a while for it to cut through the ice and clear a channel for the supply ship that is scheduled to arrive at the end of the month.  I also just learned that there will be a cruise ship coming to McMurdo, once in January and once in February.  So if you think you'd like to visit McMurdo Station in style, there's hope (assuming you have lots of money).

Below is a picture of the ice pier (the blocky looking thing) where the ice breaker and supply ship will dock.  I've been watching with interest how all of this works.  The ice in the background should soon become partially open water.  If there is a lot of open water I may even see orcas and Minke whales.

The ice pier being prepared for the
ships docking at McMurdo.

The ice pier area earlier in the season.

There are things still to see and do before I leave.  But the time is getting short.  I am scheduled to leave February 15.  In the meantime, I will cherish each day I am here in this amazing place.

3 comments:

Gianni alsoknownas John said...

(sorry I had to edit my comment) CONGRATULATIONS! Penguins are what everybody expects to see when they go to Antarctica, so you're mission is one step closer to completion! The ice pier looks like a big blanket of asphalt. Is it a permanent structure that's been uncovered by the warmer temperatures?

Rex said...

I think I have the comment option figured out.

The ice pier, like it's name implies, is made of ice and floats. They put rock on top of the pier so truck can drive around and pick up containers when they are off loaded from the supply ship. I'll take photos of the operations once the supply ship gets here.

It is a "permanent" structure but does need ice/snow added to it periodically. One of my dorm neighbors is wintering over and that is something he will work on.

Good question.

Susan said...

Glad you were able to see the penguins with more to come! I can't imagine staying thru the long, cold, dark winter, your neighbor is pretty brave!

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