Thursday, December 9, 2010 — In the hut, McMurdo Station, 4:15 a.m.
Thu, 12/09/2010 - 4:15am
Woke up about this morning at 4:00 a.m., breakfast was scheduled for 5:30 this morning and we were supposed to be packed and ready to leave for our trip to the South Pole Station by 6:15 a.m. with the plane scheduled to leave at 7:15 a.m. No news is good news and I am hopeful that this will work out and the weather will hold.
I ran out of gas last night before I was able to write about our visit to the penguin rookery. The penguin has been described as “beloved and whimsical” and it is a very accurate description! There are 17 species of penguins and they live in both warm and very cold environments, but interestingly all of them are in the southern hemisphere.
In Antarctica, there are only four different kinds of penguins, the Adelie, Emperor, Chinstrap and Gentoo. Most of the rest, including the King penguins, live on the coastlines of New Zealand, the Falkland Islands and the Galapagos Islands. They mate and breed in massive colonies called rookeries and we visited an Adelie Rookery yesterday afternoon.
There were penguins everywhere. They have been described as “beloved and whimsical,” and it is a very accurate description, but fitting only if you are upwind of the rookery! It is incredible how the respective pairs find each other. They all look exactly the same (with the exception of the few that have some sort of scar from a shark attack or another similar encounter). The “parents” take turns watching over and warming the eggs. It was very cold, probably, minus-20 degrees Celsius, but the wind was blowing very hard and the blowing snow sometimes makes visibility difficult.
While there we saw lots of seals. They chew their way up through the ice next to the glaciers where it is thinner and then lie in the sun. This is one of the reasons that walking on the sea ice is so dangerous. You can be walking along, and then step on a place where a seal came through, and fall straight down. Life expectancy in the water here is about 15 minutes, and even if you get out you are wet and cannot last very long. We looked for killer whales since where there are seals and penguins, there are usually killer whales, but we did not see any. Perhaps it was too windy. The wind breaks up the surface and makes hunting more difficult for the whales.
Hoping to see some more penguins – not sure if they exist at the South Pole, but if not then perhaps tomorrow. For now, we’re headed to the plane for our trip south.
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Thu, 12/09/2010 - 8:15am