by William Jay Smith

I think it must be very nice
To stroll about upon the ice,
Night and day, day and night,
Wearing only black and white,
Always in your Sunday best—
Black tailcoat and pearl-white vest.
To stroll about so pleasantly
Beside the cold and silent sea
Would really suit me to a T!
I think it must be very nice
To stroll with Penguins on the ice.

Until recently, penguin sightings in the McMurdo area were pretty scarce.  That has all changed.  We now have daily viewings of these funny birds.  There are two types of penguins in the area:  adelie and emperor.  Adelie penguins are fairly numerous and travel in groups.  The only emperor penguins I’ve seen are a group of four adjacent to the road on the way to the airport.

The first few penguins I saw were the adelie.  Until recently, I had only seen them alone, not in a group.  Last week there were a group of about 25 near some open water by hut point.  The same area is a popular spot with the seals, also.  A few days ago there was a group of over 50 adelie that waddled off the sea ice onto the dry ground below the helicopter pad.  They are really fun to watch when they are on the move across the snow and ice.  They waddle for a minute then plop on their belly and slide, propelling themselves with their feet and wings.  After a short period of sliding, they hop back up on their feet and repeat the process.  The adelie penguins are smaller than the emperor.  An average size for the adelie is 30 inches and 10 pounds.  As far as I can tell they are totally black & white, except for their eyes might be a little blue.  Their tails are longer than most penguin tails.  Life span of an adelie is 20 years in ideal circumstances, but closer to 10 to 15 in the wild.

You may have seen a documentary that was out a few years ago about the emperor penguins.  It was called March of the Penguin. The four emperor penguins that are out by the airport appear to be molting.  The shedding of the old feathers and replacement with the new takes 34 days.  In the mean time they just are hanging out, hardly moving at all.  The emperor are the tallest and heaviest of all penguins.  The average size is four feet tall and between 50 and 100 pounds.  Emperor penguins have a pale yellow patch on their breast and a brighter yellow or orange area near their ears.  Lifespan for an emperor is about 20 years.

Above & below:  Group of adelie off hut point.

Above & below:  Emperors on the way to Pegasus Field


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