McMurdo’s “Happy Feet”
YES! Happy feet around McMurdo Station…and I’m not just talking about the penguins! I’m talking about the people being so happy to see the penguins! That was last night. And, it’s a nice day here today. The ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules aircraft just took off for our deep field camp. People who flew today are getting settled in and are ready to work on preparing for drilling operations. WISSARD’s are doing a little happy dance, just like the Adelie penguins!
I hiked to Hut Point last night, on my way to see Robert Scott’s Discovery Hut. What I saw instead….lots and lots of Adelie penguins! These are the first ones I’ve seen up close on this trip to Antarctica. On my past two trips I’ve seen thousands….at Cape Royds, Cape Bird, and Cape Crozier. Those are the big rookery areas on the coast of Ross Island.
There’s open water out by Hut Point now; it’s so beautiful. Today’s post is going to be mostly photos and videos of penguins, and a few other fun shots. It’s a day for visual learning!
Open water means the penguins can get closer to McMurdo Station!
Can you see the group of penguins out by the ice edge? Don’t worry, I’ll get you closer to them…keep reading and looking!
Adelies started popping out of the water like small torpedoes; what a sight to see! I was pretty excited and couldn’t hold the camera steady at one point! Watch how they move around on the ice and snow.
Small clusters of Adelies waddled to and fro, dropping down on their bellies to toboggan. They can move pretty fast when waddling, but even faster when they slide along tobogganing on the ice.
Excitement kept building as the penguins got closer and closer, and before we knew it, they were waddling their way toward us on land!
We were just below Scott’s hut, and enjoying the curious penguins…coming to check us out! We were just as curious about them as they were about us!
Animals here are protected by law, and that means we can’t approach them, especially if it changes their behavior. No worries, with penguins they usually come up to the people because of their curiosity. Their predators are all in the water. We just stayed put and they circled around us. Everyone was snapping pictures like crazy. I had three cameras going…my Go Pro video camera, my small point and shoot camera and a large camera with a telephoto lens. It was a lot to keep track of.
I’m going to let you enjoy a whole lot of FUN photographs of Adelies. I’ll write a few things here and there, and at the end I have a few other fun photos.
Seeing any animal in its natural habitat is such a treat. Whether I’m in Rocky Mountain National Park (one of my favorite places to hike) watching pikas romp in the rocks on the tundra, in Olympic National Park wading in tidepools to see the sea anemones and sea urchins, or here in Antarctica observing penguins as they waddle and slide…it’s all fantastic and an incredible learning experience.
Notice the footprints in the photo below and the little marks on the side where penguins used their wings as flippers to help guide them through the snow in the second photo! Penguins push off with their feet with lots of power. You can tell by the tracks whether they were standing up and waddling, or laying down and tobogganing.
This little guy is trying to make a decision about which way to go.
Look at how neatly those three penguins are arranged in a row.
The Adelies were definitely curious about us.
They moved remarkably fast on land, but looked more comfortable on the ice and snow where they could drop down on their bellies and slide.
A peaceful view of McMurdo Sound and the Transantarctic Mountains…
The light and scenery across the sound tonight were beautiful.
I love this series of photos coming up. It gives you an idea of how the Adelies move along the ice and snow.
Can you see how frosty their wings look after the penguin plows through the snow?
I love this shot below with the snow flying into the air!
This little guy was trying to figure out where to go to enter the water. He paced back and forth a couple of times before making his decision.
He made the plunge!
The only evidence that he had been there…some circular ripples in the open water.
Perhaps he’s joining this group swimming off in the distance. They headed for the other side of the open water and popped out onto the ice.
Meanwhile, a couple of stragglers were squawking loudly…trying to locate a friend.
They paired up and here is the sequence of events.
Pretty soon all of the Adelies were back in the water again. It’s awesome how they glide through the water and leap out like dolphins to catch their breath. I absolutely loved watching them swim and frolic in the water and on the ice. Here is the last little guy, taking a dive into the icy cold water of McMurdo Sound.
What a lovely night, looking out over the ice and water to the mountains in the distance. Magical!
The patterns of the ice are quite interesting.
I hiked back to my dorm, up the hill from Hut Point. Stopping to gaze back at where I had been, this was what I saw. I can only imagine the early explorers like Robert Scott, who came to this very same place over 100 years ago. Did they see Adelies at their hut on the point? Maybe they stood in the very same spot, watching the penguins run along the ice and snow. I hope so.
I wanted to include these two photos for my students and friends at Husmann Elementary School, where I teach 4th grade.
This little geobear (geography bear) has traveled with me for the past two months.
Another day comes to a close here at McMurdo Station. What a great night it was…filled with the joy of penguins and their antics on the ice. For more information on Adelie penguins, please see my blog post for December 9th. I’ll leave you with one more video clip, taken with the Go Pro camera. I like the way this camera gives everything a rounded look. Enjoy, and I’ll be back with you again tomorrow.