Adelie Penguins on Torgersen IslandQ: How many kinds of penguins have you seen?
A: So far I have seen all three kinds of brush-tailed penguins. These are the smaller-sized penguins: Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo. Around the station we mostly run into Adelies because they are nesting nearby. However their numbers here are declining rapidly and it is likely that within the next 10 years Adelies will be extinct in the Palmer area. Scientists theorize this is happening because warming temperatures are decreasing the amount of sea ice that develops here. Less sea ice means less sea algae, which grows underneath the ice and is what krill eat. Krill is the Adelie's favorite food around the Antarctic Peninsula, so when there are fewer krill in an area the Adelies have less to eat and they either don't survive, or move to where krill is more plentiful. Right now they are moving further and further south, and penguins from the north who don't need the sea ice, the Gentoos and Chinstraps are moving in.
Gentoo penguin with chicksQ: Did you see any Leopard Seals?
A: Yes, I see them all the time! I find them beautiful, powerful, and intriguing, but also really scary. There are many Leopard seals in our area and over the last week I have seen several of them each day. Just yesterday Oona and I were chased by one in our Zodiac. They look all innocent and smiley when they are asleep on an iceberg, but don't be fooled these guys are vicious. See those splotches on the ice behind this one? I'm pretty sure that's blood from the Leopard's latest snack, probably a penguin.
Napping Leopard Seal
Q: Was the first iceberg you saw solid, or melty?
A: It was solid, but definitely melting because it is summer down here and temperatures are often above freezing. Right now our temperatures here at Palmer Station hover around 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celcius), so we often get both rain and snow in the same day. Sometimes it's sunny though, and our last sunny day was in the 40s (Fahrenheit). Yippee! I got to wear only one pair of long underwear that day.
Here's the top of a very ornate iceberg we found yesterday aground next to Old Palmer Island