Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cape Royds helo flight

This post (and my last post) go out to my brothers, Tait and David. They bought me a video camera for Christmas because they were sick of my attempts at time lapses. They even put footage of my dog, Sabah, on the camera for when it reached me in Antarctica which was elating. While I'm not sure the results are any less shaky, there is definitely a lot more in here. Thanks, guys.

Video of the entire flight from Cape Royds to McMurdo along the channel.

  • 0:00 Taking off from Cape Royd
  • 0:30 Mt. Erebus
  • 1:10 Mt. Erebus again
  • 1:38 Seals on the Ice
  • 1:51 Barne Glacier
  • 2:44 Barne Glacier close up
  • 4:45 Cape Evans, Scott's Hut is just above the green Kiwi building
  • 6:05 Iceberg
  • 6:16 Inaccessible Island
  • 6:40 Royal Society Mountains
  • 6:45 Penguins, scared of the helicopter, run for the water
  • 6:55 Tent Island
  • 8:00 The ice edge and my first minke whale sighting somewhere around there
  • 9:05 More scared penguins
  • 9:12 A LOT of penguins, the black stuff in the water should be more penguins
  • 11:03 The mouth of the channel the ice breaker made
  • 13:00 Running penguins
  • 16:30 Observation Hill looming over McMurdo station
  • 17:45 The Odin icebreaker
  • 19:10 Hut Point
  • 19:20 McMurdo Station
  • 19:40 Hut Point again
  • 2o:20 McMurdo Station heliport

Big Razorback Island

The Barne Glacier and the Dellbridge Islands.

The Barne Glacier.

Inaccessible Island and an iceberg.

The ice channel and future ice runway.

The Odin icebreaker creating a channel.

Cape Royds penguin video

Here is some footage taken from when we carried away some of the scientists gear and afterward when we were permitted to roam around. The water footage is from just north of the colony and is my favorite. The snow/ice footage is from just south of the colony. If you think you see a fishing net in the scientist's hand in the first minute, you do. They use it to safely catch the chicks so they can band them for tracking purposes.

The true brilliance of the Adelie penguins shines when you actually see them moving. Everyone says they move like they are "late, late, late for a very important date," but until you seem them moving, I'm not sure you'll understand. There is one, in the final minute, that epitomizes this.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cape Royds

Cape Royds penguin rookery and Shackleton's Hut.

Two weeks before I left the Ice, I received the icing on the cake of an amazing season. I went to the Cape Royds, which is is the home of Shackleton's Hut and an Adelie penguin rookery. To travel there, we took a Bell 212 helicopter to the cape which is on Ross Island about 20-30 miles north. I've said it before and I'll say it again, my best days on the Ice have started with a helicopter ride.

Deke in front of the garbage dump for Shackleton't Hut.

Dog houses at Shackleton's Hut.

Properly labeled cargo will ensure a speedy delivery.

Deke and I were at Cape Royds to download data from their automated penguin camera. The scientists were there to break down some field equipment to take back to base. When we finished our work, we helped them haul their gear up the long hill to the helicopter landing site. Fortunately, we finished all the work about an hour before we were scheduled to be picked up which gave us a little time to explore the area. Unfortunately, we didn't have the key to Shackleton's Hut so we couldn't get into it, but we might have had time to loot the whiskey from under the hut if we had thought of it (Sorry, Fraggle). I used my extra time running around with my telephoto lens taking pictures and admiring the wildlife, specifically watching the penguins swim and jump in and out of the water just outside of the rookery.

Adelie penguins.

An Adelie penguin carries a pebble to its nest that it is building. The penguin with the biggest pile WINS.

Each year, the single male Adelie penguin builds a nest out of pebbles to try and court a female. The mated pairs from previous years usually return to each other and rebuild their old nest site. On a continent made mostly of ice, there are not many pebbles to choose from so the Adelies have been stealing the same pebbles from each other for centuries to build their nests. Each year, they try to defend their territory, but other penguins are always able to steal a few pebbles. Watching this behavior as they chase each other around was really entertaining. I think they are done breeding for this season so I'm not sure why they were stealing pebbles when I arrived. Maybe they were practicing their Capture the Pebbles skills for next season.

A curious parent and chick.

A less curious cute chick and parent.

Adelie penguin.

Adelie chick.

Mated pairs will typically lay two eggs in late November that will hatch in late December. The parents take turns incubating the eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the parents will continue to take turns with their offspring to defend against any predators (i.e. skuas) while the other gets food for themselves and to regurgitate for the chick. I was amazed at the ferocity of the displays of the Adelies when a skua approached. The parents will continue taking turns until late January when the chicks' appetite require that they both go out to collect food. During that time, the chicks will gather around each other in crèches for protection.

Adelie penguin.

Adelie penguin tries to fly?

Adelie penguin chick.

Apparently, the Cape Royds rookery has some of the fattest chicks around. There just isn't the same competition for food as there is at other rookeries so the parents can easily get enough food for themselves and their offspring. Cape Royds has around 2,000 mating pairs. Cape Crozier another colony on Ross Island, has 150,000 breeding pairs of Adelies. I'm not sure if the adults end up bigger as well. I'd assume so. Adelie adults are between 18"-30" tall.

A banded Adelie penguin.

King of the Hill.

Adelie penguins.

Adelie penguins on an ice chunk.

Adelie penguins.

An Adelie penguin tries a plane style take off to fly.

Adelie penguins.

Adelie penguin diving board.

My favorite parts of visiting the penguin rookery were watching the penguins swim and exit the water. I'll put some video up of it soon because stills don't do it justice. They look like they just leap out of the water. If you blink, you might suddenly see two or three standing on the ice where there were just none. It was magical to watch those clumsy landlubbers become streaking torpedoes when they enter the water. They are completely different creatures. I realize that they need to surface to breath, but it looked like they were playing in the water more than they were feeding. I was captivated and wish I had more time to spend with them.

Adelie penguin.

Adelie penguin.

Adelie penguins.

Adelie penguins.

Adelie penguin roar.

Adelie penguin.

Adelie penguin covered in penguin guano from sliding on its belly.

Adelie penguins.

Adelie penguins.

An Adelie penguin builds up its nest with a new rock.

Not every penguin makes it.

Adelie penguin.

Swimming Adelie penguins.

Swimming and resting Adelie penguins.

Adelie penguins and ice sheets breaking away.

Shh, be very, very quiet. He is sleeping.

Notice the red on the underside of the wings. It is redder because of the extra blood flow in the area when they are swimming.

One of the neater things that I was able to see was the different colors of the penguins feet and wings. When they are warm and dry, their feet and inner wings are white. After they swim, the feet and inner wings are pink from all of the extra blood in that part of the body to keep them warm. Very, very cool.

A crabeater seal at the southernmost point of its range.

Just south of the Cape Royds penguin rookery.

Two skuas eat the remains of a penguin chick.

The Kiwi's EC-130 lands with Mt. Erebus in the background.