It’s a good thing I posted my previous blog post when I did, because had I waited until after the snowmobile training that day, the only thing I would have talked about was the penguin we saw…..
When John came in on Tuesday, he said he had seen a penguin near the transition off of Pegasus road. At the snowmobile training this past Friday 10 January (Lee, Melissa, John, and I all went), our instructor said that when we go out for a ride on our snowmobiles, we may be able to see that very penguin, as it was along our route. One may think, surely the penguin would have been long gone three days after someone had seen it; it could be on the other side of the continent! But not so (in this case, anyway); this penguin was molting, and during that process the feathers aren’t waterproof and it needs to stay out of the water. Therefore, it might as well set up shop on the surface and stay there as long as it can, until the molting process is complete.
We completed the overview of the snowmobile’s parts, functions, and maintenance, then headed out to the transition to go for a ride. We all got on our snowmobiles and took off. The penguin was a couple miles from the transition, so as we drove on Pegasus road towards our makeshift obstacle course we looked for any black spec that may or may not be a penguin. Alas, we were unsuccessful in spotting it on the way out. We enjoyed our obstacle course and headed back to town. This time, we looked much more carefully and…..
I was at the back of the pack of snowmobiles, so when we started slowing down I figured someone had spotted the penguin, though I couldn’t see it right away. I tried hard to contain my excitement and not jump off the snowmobile and run towards the penguin, thereby scaring it away. As we approached to start the picture-taking frenzy, it looked to be about 40 feet away. Lee and Melissa said they had never been this close to one. Me neither.
You can clearly see that this penguin is molting, as indicated by the grayed feathers on its back. This molting process lasts about 34 days for Emperor penguins, according to Wikipedia.
We spent about 5 minutes looking at the penguin, then we headed back to McMurdo. I could have stayed for another hour. I hope to see many more penguins, but if not, I’ll be happy with this first sighting!