The Emperors of Auster: Antarctica

Story and Photographs by Shane Ness

Perhaps the toughest creature on the planet and the only animal to breed during the Antarctic Winter, The Emperor Penguin is truly living on the edge.

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Emperor penguins keeping warm

I am off to visit Auster Rookery, which was discovered in August 1957 and named after an ANARE, Auster aircraft. Auster Rookery lies around 50km from the Australian, Mawson Station and it will take us over 2 hours, through a maze of giant ice bergs in our Hagglunds, over snow vehicle. On the way we see some weddel seals and a beautiful sunrise.

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Hagglunds and Antarctic Sunrise

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Weddel Seals and Hagglunds

We camp the night at Macey Island, in the Macey Hut “Rodgers Lodge” no idea who Rodger is? After setting up the hut and a coffee to warm up, we jump back in the Hagg and continue our journey a further 10 km to the rookery.

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Macey Hut and a Hagglunds

In the distance I see the colony, the distinctive black line amongst the white sea ice and blue ice bergs. Emperor Penguins huddle together to stay warm throughout the toughest of antarctic winters. They battle the “Katabatic Winds” which blow off the plateau and blizzards that reach 200km/h.

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The thin black line

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I wonder what is going on over there?

It was one of those, I had to pinch myself moments, sitting there on the sea ice, in amongst giant ice bergs, with this penguin just chilling watching us. I think he was as interested in us, as we were of him.

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So whats going on?

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Everyday i’m shuffling

In the huddle we could here the very faint chirp of emperor penguin chicks, we never saw one, they would be very protected from the cold by their fathers. This would mean that soon the females would return, and almost as soon as we thought that, in the distance we spotted two penguins making the journey back through the bergs. As they approached the huddle, all the penguins started squawking, you could feel the excitement in the males, then the females quickly disappeared into the huddle and vanished.

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The Return of the Mothers

The harshness of the Antarctic winter and the incredible toughness of these birds amazes me. They survive in this extreme environment with no food for up to 120 days. During this time the males will lose about 40%, of their body weight, around 12kgs.

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So what are you guys up to?

On the walk back to the Hagg I spot an egg, sitting there on the ice, frozen. I stark reminder of how tough it really is out here in the middle of the winter.

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Frozen Egg

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The sun sets and the moon rises

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane,

11 thoughts on “The Emperors of Auster: Antarctica

    • It can get pretty chilly out there. So we take a small generator to power a little heater. Just enough to take the chill off the air. At night in the hut with the heater on can get down to 1C. During the day we have a gas heater on which is toasty warm. I have slept in a tent at a place called Rumdoodle. That was cold. I woke up with ice forming on my beanie, inside the tent your breath would freeze and it would look like it was snowing inside.

      Great to hear from you Donna.

      One Life, One Search,
      Peace Out,
      Shane.

  1. Oh wow! I always wanted to see these! It’s been on my bucketlist for ages. But getting to Antarctica is not exactly cheap and also takes ages from Germany.

    been to the north pole already, but that was fairly easy from here. Most Antartica cruises I checked were like 15k or more :( and taking 3 weeks or so…gosh. I really need to quit my job lol!

    • The North Pole, that is somewhere that has interested me for a long time. Yes, Antarctica is not an easy or cheap place to reach, I guess that is a part of its appeal, that and the fact that it really is the one last untouched environment, the last frontier. I guess I am very privileged to be able to spend so much time here, to explore this land.

      Thank you for visiting my blog, Please FOLLOW and join me on my adventures, on my journey.

      One Life, One Search,
      Peace Out,
      Shane.

  2. Hi Shane, Lovely to see your latest recordings, love them they are fantastic, hope you are keeping well, Stuart, Becky and Emily have just been to visit and we were talking about you and chrissy in the nicest possible way, one fantastic couple.
    Many Thanks for Sharing with us.
    Regards and Take Care,
    Kathy and Colin. xxxx

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