When satellite imagery showed what turned out to be a giant swath of penguin excrement in eastern Antarctica, penguin researchers became really excited at the prospect of a previously unknown penguin colony. Belgian researcher Alain Hubert, of the International Polar Foundation, recounts the thrill at being the first human to visit the large and prospering colony.
Because it was the birds’ first interaction with humans, he says, the thousands of emperor penguins were unafraid. Under the Antarctic midnight sun, in -30 degree Celsius temperatures, he sat captivated for hours. “I wasn’t sure I was still on Earth. Meeting these animals was absolutely awesome.”
It isn’t often you hear a scientist use words like “awesome” or “cute”, but in this recorded interview Mr. Hubert describes with childlike delight the visit, which occurred under the midnight sun in eastern Antarctica.
And when asked how that swath of penguin poop actually smelled, Dr. Hubert said it was so cold at night there was no smell.
Last year, television viewers were captivated by the footage from the BBC’s Spy Cams, deployed in the Arctic to record the actions of polar bears on the ice. Now the same crew has developed robotic penguins, with cameras implanted in them, to record the daily happenings of several emperor colonies.
While your trip to Antarctica won’t feature robo-penguins or the newly discovered colony, you may intersect with a penguin highway on one of your shore landings. Bon voyage!