Sunday, January 18, 2009

Questions Answered

I have a few questions to answer from my friend Olivia. Please feel free to ask questions about my Antarctic adventure, either in the comments area or via email and I will do my best to answer them when I get a chance.

Adelie Penguins on Torgersen Island
Q: 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 chicks
A lone Chinstrap wandering around the Adelie colonies on Torgersen Island
Q: 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


  1. Could you record a leopard seal "playing" a penguin? You know, using a penguin as a "found" musical instrument?

    I really liked the penguin marching on the resonant rocks symphony.

    We are really hoping you will report if you find any falsifiable evidence of human induced global warming. You know, like, science.

    How are the insects?
    Is the sun spinning around you?
    Are you the greatest martial arts master in all of Antarctica?

  2. Good questions, Olivia!

    Cheryl your sounds are becoming part of my random studio mix, so don't be shy about variety or length.

    And ~ are you the greatest martial arts master in all of Antarctica? Or perhaps the most celebrated concert pianist on the continent?

  3. Hey Cheryl - exciting stuff! Glad you're finding time to keep up the blog (long days I guess ;-) Looks like you may be in for a major ice event, courtesy of global warming:
    Hope that doesn't put a damper on your plans - stay close to your boat when you're out on the ice, eh?