Auster Rookery
Emperor Penguin Colony
Christmas Eve 2007
Christmas Eve 2007, and fate shined on us. This time it was our turn to board the first helicopter for the 29 mile ride to the
rookery. The helicopter landed one and a quarter miles away behind an iceberg so as to avoid disturbing this colony of
11,000 breeding pair of Emperors. We were the first people to complete the one and a half mile walk over the Fast Ice to
the Auster Rookery Emperor Penguin, so we had the colony all to ourselves for the first 15 minutes..
The Emperor Penguin chicks hatch in September or October. By the time we arrived they were fairly big and waiting for the
ice to break up and their last feedings. Many of the babies were molting their gray jackets for the more colorful white and
black of an adult. Jackie and I noticed that many of the Emperor chicks were much smaller than the ones we saw two
years ago at the same time of year. There were also a number of baby carcasses in the colony. It appears that the
unusually heavy pack ice made the walk for the parents much longer so that these chicks were not as well fed as in a normal
year.
At first it seemed that the colony had mostly chicks. But then we noticed that adults were continuously arriving and departing
in their endeavor to feed their very hungry chicks.