Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Back to Antarctica--with animals

I came back to McMurdo Station, Antarctica in October, 2009 for a second 4-month season. I finally got what everyone comes here for--to see animals out on the sea ice.
To go out on the sea ice, a person has to go on a special excursion outside the station. About 20 of us piled into the back of an old Navy vehicle called a Delta. It has hard bench seats, the windows get completely steamed over, and it's a very bumpy and bouncy 2-hour ride. It got stuck in the snow a lot, but one time it really paid off.
While we were digging out, at the horizon there appeared 4 black dots moving toward us. Could it be penguins? Yes it was! The rule is that we are not allowed to approach the animals. But we can let them come to us. So we got down on our knees and waited.
Unlike in the cartoons, emperor penguins don't waddle. With their feet, they push themselves on their bellies along on the ice. They move across the ice like the water birds that they are!

When they got to us, they stood up and looked around, probably wondering where we keep our fish to eat. Then they flopped back onto their bellies and pushed off.
Everything in this picture except for the penguins is ice--probably more than 20 ft thick.

We also saw seals. Seals come up through holes in the ice. Then they just lie on the ice, looking like garden slugs. The adults barely move, and the babies move just a bit more than that.

Isn't this baby just the cutest!