Category Archives: photo trips abroad

just follow the leader

On our last day at the colony the Emperor penguins had moved to a place under a hill. The crew had positioned the 30-meter boundary rope alongside the hill and we, the yellow-coated penguins, were watching the spectacle below from behind the rope on top of the hill. The chicks were very inquisitive and climbed uphill all the time to check us out, after which they were called down by the parent penguins. The bravest of them takes the front position and the others simply follow.

inquisitive

Emperor penguin chicks are very playful and inquisitive.

On our last day at the colony the Emperor penguins had moved to a place under a hill. The crew had positioned the 30-meter boundary rope alongside the hill and we, the yellow-coated penguins, were watching the spectacle below from behind the rope on top of the hill.

The chicks climbed uphill all the time to check us out, after which they were called down by the parent penguins. This behavior went on for hours.

pecking

Don’t let this scene fool you. It looks like an Emperor penguin parent with its chick, but this chick is actually trying to get a free meal from a random adult penguin in the colony. Probably its real parents are out in the sea to feed and when the chicks are left alone they will try and lure other adult penguins to fill their hungry bellies. But as one of the biologists on board the Khlebnikov told us: evolution-wise it doesn’t make sense for an adult Emperor penguin to feed other penguins babies. The whole process of laying one precious egg deep in the hazardous polar winter and raising the chick by trekking many miles on the sea ice to the open sea to feed is so difficult and dangerous they cannot afford to feed other chicks than their own.

Parents and chicks recognize each other by a very specific series of tones and when another chick than their own will try to get a free meal the adult will peck it in the neck to send it away.

The last two photos are crops of the scenes above.

On the first photo it looks as if the adult Emperor penguin is lovingly cuddling the head of the chick, but on the second photo the cuddling has turned into pecking. This baby is not going to be fed by this adult. It will have to wait until its real mom and dad return from the sea with food.

will you feed me?

This chicks seems to be looking for its parents, who might well be both off to sea to forage. When they are, the abandoned chicks start to wander around in search for a meal.

Emperor penguins lay just one single egg and evolution-wise it doesn’t make sense for them to feed other penguins babies. The whole process of laying that precious egg deep in the hazardous polar winter and raising the chick by trekking many miles on the sea ice to the open sea to feed is so difficult and dangerous they cannot afford to feed other chicks than their own. So seeing scenes like this, an adult with two chicks, doesn’t mean they are both his or her offspring. They could even be both random chicks, seeking shelter with a random adult.

Chicks looking for their parents and parents looking for their chicks, the daily routine in a Emperor penguin colony.

family photos (3)

Female Emperor penguins lay one precious egg which is incubated by the male while the female heads back for the sea to feed. Once the chick is born, both parents alternate between taking care of the chick at the colony and foraging at sea. But when the chicks grow older en larger, it is very common for both parents to go off to the waters edge of the sea ice to feed.
By the time we visited most chicks had formed a crèche and it was very rare to see family scenes like this.

family photos (2)

Female Emperor penguins lay one precious egg which is incubated by the male while the female heads back for the sea to feed. Once the chick is born, both parents alternate between taking care of the chick at the colony and foraging at sea. But when the chicks grow older en larger, it is very common for both parents to go off to the waters edge of the sea ice to feed.
By the time we visited most chicks had formed a crèche and it was very rare to see family scenes like this. On the first frame the single chick in the background is probably awaiting its parents to come back and feed it.

family photos (1)

Female Emperor penguins lay one precious egg which is incubated by the male while the female heads back for the sea to feed. Once the chick is born, both parents alternate between taking care of the chick at the colony and foraging at sea. But when the chicks grow older en larger, it is very common for both parents to go off to the waters edge of the sea ice to feed.
By the time we visited most chicks had formed a crèche and it was very rare to see family scenes like this.

tobogganing

I’ve learned a new word when visiting Snow Hill Island: tobogganing. Most penguins use this sledding technique, because for them walking is not the easiest way to move forward.

When they get tired of walking they fall over on their bellies and they toboggan.

They use their feet and wings to slide forward and they can move very fast like that.

And when they want to get up they use their beaks to rise.

wandering chicks

A month after hatching the Emperor penguin chicks are encouraged by their parents to walk by themselves. This is necessary because the chicks grow so fast the parents have to forage both at te same time to be able to feed their offspring and themselves. When we visited the chicks were in their adolescent stage, about three months old, and they had formed groups for safety and warmth.

When both parents are off to sea to feed and the weather is good, the chicks are in constant search for their next meal. They follow each other wandering between the many groups of the the Snow Hill Island colony.

playing

Emperor penguin chicks checking out a cave-shaped pile of snow and ice. They were crowding in front of it, each one taking its turn to have a look inside.

On the last photo you can see the chicks playing around that cavity in the background.

marching

The march of the penguins for real. The upper photo shows adult Emperor penguins and chicks, all in search of their family members. The one below shows adult Emperors coming home after foraging in the sea.

homecoming

homecoming emperor penguins after foraging in the sea

The Emperor penguins are incredible creatures, trekking many miles to the waters edge of the sea ice to forage. In this series of three photos they are returning to the colony to feed their awaiting chicks. The Emperors use different techniques to move forward. They walk and when they get tired of walking they fall over on their bellies to toboggan. Tobogganing is faster but they have to be careful not to wear out their belly feathers. We visited in the polar summer and still the ice edge was a solid 6 miles away. I can’t begin to understand how they manage to do this in winter time, when they have to trek for 60 to 70 miles!

homecoming emperor penguins after foraging in the sea

homecoming emperor penguins after foraging in the sea

icebergs

After leaving the the dreaded Drake Passage behind us, we had landed in the icy world of the Weddell Sea overnight.
At 06.00 we were awakened by our expedition leader, who apologized for waking us up, but he could imagine that many of us wanted to take pictures outside on deck. I opened our curtains, gobbled for 1 second at the phenomenal view outside our small window and got dressed within a record time of 2 minutes, complete with warm parka and boots, camera strapped around my neck, finding myself outside on deck, witnessing this scene glide by.
What attracts me so much to  Antarctica is the silence caused by the absence of human habitation and the beautiful richness of subtle colors. Perhaps you think of white when you think of Antarctica: white ice and white snow. But the sky of this continent is often full of beautiful pastels: yellow, pink, all shades of blue and gray and white. And then there are these different types of ice: glacier types of ice, old ice, new ice, blue ice.

views from the ship

sailing through the beagle channel

Leaving Ushuaia this was our view from the ship while sailing through the Beagle Channel, heading for Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. The snowcapped mountains in the background are the foothills of the Andes.

Landed in the icy Weddell Sea.

Parked in the ice. Our view from one side of the ship.

Parked in the ice. Our view from the other side of the ship.

The cracks in the sea ice.

breaking ice

pulling the the kapitan khlebnikov 02

It’s me, pulling and pushing the Kapitan Khlebnikov.
Even a tough icebreaker like the Khlebnikov can get stuck in the icy Weddell Sea. When that happens, everyone participating in the expedition must help out. This is me, taking my turn in pulling the rope 😉

pulling the the kapitan khlebnikov 01

pushing the the kapitan khlebnikov