(CNN)Antarctica covers an area of almost 14 million square kilometers -- about the same size of Europe.
in the most inhospitable place on Earth, temperatures can reach -90 C
and winds on the eastern shores blow at an average of 80 kilometers per
Even the place names suggest a wild and dangerous land: Terror Gulf, Deception Island, Disenchantment Bay.
The human population of Antarctica, mainly there to conduct research, varies from about 1,000 in winter to 4,500 in summer.
the sea ice and waters are home to some of the planet's most impressive
bird life, as well as fish, squid, whales and seals.
Award-winning Italian photographer Alex Bernasconi has traveled the world capturing images of nature and wildlife.
new book, "Blue Ice," a followup to 2010's "Wild Africa," is the result
of an expedition around Antarctica and South Georgia.
CNN: How long did the expedition take to plan?
Bernasconi: A trip like this needs to be organized at least two years in advance.
You need to plan out a schedule, but it all depends on the weather, which can change dramatically with almost no warning.
it's too dangerous, if not impossible, to land the boat due to strong
winds or big waves, so the expedition leader needs to reposition or try
Frozen beauty: An iceberg arch near volcanic Paulet Island.
CNN: What equipment did you use?
The extreme conditions means it's best to carry more gear in case of
malfunctioning or damage: salt spray, rain, wind and cold can affect
even the most rugged equipment.
brought almost all type of lenses, from 14mm to 500mm, and I had the
chance to use them all, but wide angles and medium zoom were the most
I usually worked with two camera bodies to avoid changing lenses too frequently, and had two spares on board.
CNN: You've photographed some of the world's most dangerous predators. How do you get intimate shots while staying safe?
Bernasconi: I always try to get as close as I can to any wildlife.
I like to use the shortest lens possible, or take extreme closeups with zoom lenses.
As [photojournalist] Robert Capa once said: "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough."
I usually approach wildlife in such a way as to let them get used to my presence, lying still on the ground if possible.
Elephant bull seals: Approach with caution.
CNN: Any encounters that got too close?
Bernasconi: Once a big elephant bull charged me while I was taking pictures from the ground.
you choose the right individual you know that these are often just mock
charges and you have time to get nice ground shots by staying perfectly
still until it stops and retreats.
that time this massive bull kept running toward me, much closer than I
have ever experienced before, and he stopped only a few meters from me.
CNN: What are the differences between Antarctic species?
Bernasconi: In South Georgia and Antarctica you don't have to deal with dangerous predators.
Penguins are particularly curious and generally friendly, so very easy to deal with.
seals are massive and can be ill-tempered so they require just a bit
more caution, while fur seals are particularly aggressive.
It's always best to keep your eyes open because they can charge and bite you with no warning.
In some cases, when I was surrounded, I had to use my tripod to defend myself.
The albatross has the largest wingspan in the bird kingdom: up to 3.4 meters.
CNN: How do you set up your landscape shots?
Bernasconi: The hardest job for a photographer is to summarize the soul of a place in a single frame.
getting the right composition, at the right time, when all the elements
blend together: animal behaviors, position, balance between foreground
and background, light and shadows.
I'm so absorbed in what I'm doing, it's like a kind of trance.
gain a sort of extra strength and endurance, so that I could hike for
hours, stay perfectly still lying in the guano, awaiting the right
moment even if it's windy or cold or wet.
wild places inspire me so much that the pleasure of being a privileged
witness to such beauty makes me able to handle almost any kind of
CNN: And the gear?
landscapes I used, when wind and rain gave me the chance, Lee ND
filters to achieve the best possible in-camera exposure, and a sturdy
carbon tripod with pano equipment to realize panorama shots.
all this gear for long hiking hours can be tiring but it's the only way
to achieve all the kinds of images nature is giving you the opportunity
CNN: You're following in the footsteps of the great pioneering early 20th-century photographers such as Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley.
everyone with a camera can choose to go to Antarctica and come back
safely, thanks to modern ships, satellite communications, technological
outfits, good food and the latest camera equipment.
The men 100 years ago were real explorers and pioneers.
At that time, embarking on such an expedition was a real challenge, and for sure you knew you were putting your life at risk.
The images captured by Ponting and Hurley are extraordinary for many reasons, technically and as a testimony of an heroic era.
My work has been so much easier: It's just my visual tribute to the most extreme region of the world.
There are two species of elephant seal: Southern elephant seals are found in Antarctica.
CNN: What was it like being in one of the wildest corners of Earth?
Bernasconi: Everything here is absolutely special: extreme climate, dramatic light, scenery, incredible fauna.
Nature protects this corner of the world with such intensity and
sometimes dreadful violence that I like to think it's because these
places are so important and fragile.
though I've already been in some of the most faraway and wild locations
of the world, when I was in Antarctica, so distant from any human
presence, I felt an even deeper contact with nature than I've ever felt
do you think about NASA's recent findings that ice gain in East
Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica could offset ice loss
leave these scientific discoveries and debates to the experts: every
now and then we are fed contradicting information, so that for the rest
of us it's difficult to understand what's really going on.
be happy to know that our behavior is not really affecting this
extremely important environment, but I still think we must try with all
our force to make sure that our awesome natural world will be preserved
for future generations.
I'm really fond
of a Masai proverb that says: "Take care of our Earth. We do not
inherit it from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."
Petition opposing the encounter was signed by more than 600 people in 24 hours
Solihull's giant Touchwood mall has cancelled a kids' Penguin
Encounter event amid a furious backlash from animal rights campaigners.
The event was scheduled for December 20 and promised to "educate and delight children" about endangered Humboldt penguins.
But shopping centre bosses cancelled it after hundreds campaigned against it.
More than 600 people signed an online petition over the last 24 hours, demanding the event be scrapped.
Others took to Facebook to vent their disapproval.
Animal Rights, which co-ordinated opposition to the event, said: "As
well as welfare concerns, using wild animals as a form on
‘entertainment’ sends out the wrong educational messages to the public,
in particular children.
"Animals like penguins do not belong on a High Street in the
UK and this event does nothing to teach about conservation or respect
for species and habitats."
One protester wrote on Facebook: "Shame on you Touchwood.
"You are exploiting wild animals for your own gains."
Another posted: "Seriously?
"Have some respect for these animals - they are not toys to be shunted around for entertainment value."
Touchwood announced the cancellation on its Facebook page at around 2pm on Monday.
It said it had listened to the concerns expressed.
A statement read: "It is with regret that we have taken the
decision to cancel the Penguin Encounter, scheduled to take place
outside in Theatre Square at Touchwood on Sunday December 20.
"This educational encounter has been held at Touchwood for the past three years.
"We are proud to have helped draw the public’s attention to
the wonderful Humboldt Penguin species, which in its natural habitat is
"We had hoped to raise yet more awareness this year,
but the purpose of the encounter has been misunderstood by animal rights
"We sincerely apologise for any disappointment caused
to the many children and families who were due to join us for what is
always an informative day."
Humboldt penguins generally live in coastal Peru and Chile in South America.
International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of endangered
species rates the species as "vulnerable" - one stage from being
history film follows the trials and tribulations of a baby Emperor
Penguin trying to survive in the first few months of the harsh Antarctic
Hollywood star Kate Winslet is voicing a new BBC natural history film following the fortunes of a young Emperor Penguin.
Snow Chick has been shot in an Antarctic Midwinter – where
temperatures plummet to -60 degrees Celsius – and follows the fortunes
of the tiny creature’s first precarious months on the ice. The one-off
film will air over Christmas on BBC1.
Emperor Penguins are the only animals to breed in the Antarctic
winter and the film sees Snow Chick elbowed out of her group of
youngsters, venturing too far for comfort, hiding from chick-snatching
penguins and avoiding a scavenging petrel by the fluff of his back – all
while slipping and skating on treacherous ice.
Finally, the chick gets tossed unceremoniously into the open ocean – his new home for the next three years. “This has to be one of nature’s most incredible stories, and one huge
adventure for such a tiny creature,” said John Downer, director of the
programme who also made Penguins: Spy in the Huddle which aired on BBC1
This little, or little blue, penguin, is one of a number
living at South Bay Kaikoura. The breeding season is under way and they
are enjoying an improved living space.
Who would you rather adopt - Richie or Dan? Or Sonny Bill or Savea?
are not quite enough for a rugby team yet, but seven newborn penguin
chicks in Kaikoura have been given a good start to life - they've all
been named after Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks.
And with nine eggs still to hatch, there may be still be enough for a complete All Blacks lineup.
chicks, which can be adopted as part of KORI's Sponsor a Penguin
project, are part of a colony monitored by Lindsay Rowe and members of
Kaikoura Ocean Research Institute as part of the Penguin Education and
Awareness Programme (PEAP).
Last year 24 chicks were born, with some pairs raising two clutches, effectively doubling their reproduction success.
(or little blue) penguins would have originally occupied much of the
peninsula area before introduced predators and habitat loss reduced
their local population and distribution dramatically.
local stronghold is a small area at South Bay, which had been eroding
every year, destroying existing nests and reducing potential breeding
This year, a project involving KORI and the district and regional councils has improved the penguins' living space.
a large storm in early winter the councils put in place large boulders
in front of the boat parking area and also in front of the penguin
These were filled with smaller rocks to further stabilise
the bank. Flax cuttings were donated to provide nesting cover and to
help prevent further erosion, and council gifted the corner of the
recreational boat park to the penguin breeding colony.
Together with the addition of more purpose-built nest boxes over the
past year, the benefits of this team work are already being seen.
Judkins, of KORI, said the project was a great example of different
organisations and individuals coming together to achieve a positive
outcome for the biodiversity of Kaikoura.
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Following a voter-approved tax
hike in Albuquerque, the BioPark says it now has the resources to start
bringing penguins to the city.
Construction is now scheduled to start on the Penguin Chill exhibit
in the fall of 2016, with penguins waddling their way into the zoo the
Getting here hasn’t been easy. In 2010, the BioPark Society announced
it was starting to raise the millions needed for a penguin exhibit.
However, as other needs have come up, the society has been raising money
for other projects as part of its capital campaign. The clock on
bringing penguins to Albuquerque sped up significantly when voters
approved a $17 million a year tax hike to pay for improvements and
repairs at the BioPark. “To show the public that we’re moving on something fairly quickly
that they can see and want is that we decided to go with the penguins
first,” said Lynn Tupa, the Rio Grande Zoo’s manager.
The Penguin Chill exhibit is set to be, as the name would indicate, a chill one for both its residents and visitors. “They’re from the cold climate so we want the public to be cold when they walk in,” Tupa said.
The new exhibit is expected to be a big hit with kids. Maryjean Wall,
who was visiting the zoo on Monday, says she’s seen firsthand how
popular penguins can be. “In Kentucky, there’s an aquarium where I’ve seen the penguin exhibit
and it is a huge draw for children especially,” Wall said. “They just
seem to love those birds.”
The process of acquiring those penguins is already in progress. Tupa
says the zoo will be seeking three different species of penguins and
about 20 to 30 total penguins. “We will kinda make some feelers out to other zoos that are breeding
penguins and start telling them how many we would like,” Tupa said. “It
can take over a year.”
To make room, the zoo will tear down the Tropical America building
and Phoenix snack bar next year. The animals currently housed in
Tropical America will be moved to other locations at the zoo or other
zoos altogether. If all goes according to plan, Tupa says 2017 will be the big year when the new Penguin Chill exhibit opens to the public.
Oil on their feathers is a
natural 'de-icer' that could be used to keep aircraft wings clear
Researchers from UCLA studied different penguins' feathers in detail
combination of nanostructures and a special oil make the Gentoo
penguin's feathers superhydrophobic, or excellent at repelling water
Penguins from warmer climates don't have tiny pores on their feathers
Discovery could lead to new techniques for de-icing planes, for example
Sarah Griffiths for MailOnline
08:17 EST, 23 November 2015
Antarctic penguins hop in and out of water in temperatures of -40ºC yet their feathers never get icy.
unravel the mystery of this apparent paradox, scientists have studied
the birds' feathers in extreme detail to reveal their anti-icing trick.
found that a combination of nanostructures and a special oil make the
Gentoo penguin's feathers superhydrophobic, or excellent at repelling
Scientists have found that a
combination of nanostructures and a special oil make Gentoo
penguins' feathers superhydrophobic, or excellent at repelling water.
The playful creatures hop in and out of cold water (shown) in
temperatures of -40 ºC yet their feathers never get icy
of water on the feathers bead up so much that's it's difficult for heat
to flow out of the droplet, meaning the water will roll off before it
has time to freeze.
from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) are presenting
their findings today at the annual meeting of the American Physical
Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics in Boston, Massachusetts.
Kavehpour, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace
Engineering at the university, first became interested in penguin
feathers while watching a nature documentary.
In particular, he noticed the birds had no ice on their feathers, despite coming out of cold water into sub-zero temperatures.
got in touch with Judy St Leger, a leading expert on penguins, who
confirmed that no-one had ever observed ice on the feather coat of
To find out why not, his team studied penguin feathers donated by San Diego SeaWorld, using Scanning Electron Microscopy.
They discovered that the gentoo's
feathers (stock image) had tiny pores that trap air and make the surface
hydrophobic. The penguins also apply an oil, produced by a gland near
the base of their tail, to their feathers
The experts found that penguins that
live in warmer climates, such as the Magellanic penguin, don't have the
small pores on their feathers, and that the birds also produced a
different type of preen oil
PENGUINS LOOK FOR SEXY BEAKS
The eyes may be the window to the soul, but for penguins colourful beaks are the most alluring feature on a partner.
Scientists have found king penguins are attracted to the colours in each other's bills, which include hues invisible to humans.
previous studies have suggested a penguin's 'beak spot' may be an
important differentiator for choosing a mate, a French study has shed
light on just how important the bright orange area on either side of the
bird's beak is.
Like many other birds, penguins can see ultraviolet light, so the area looks more than orange to them.
The birds tend to go for partners that have similar beak colours to themselves.
focused on feathers of the Gentoo penguin, which lives in Antarctica
and the southern-most parts of South America, comparing its plumes to
those of the Magellanic penguin, which lives in warmer climates farther
north in Chile, Argentina and even Brazil.
The researchers discovered that the gentoo's feathers had tiny pores that trap air and make the surface hydrophobic.
The penguins also apply an oil, produced by a gland near the base of their tail, to their feathers.
The combination of the nano-sized pits and the preen oil makes the feathers superhydrophobic in sub-zero climates.
comparison, they found that the warmer weather penguins lacked the
small pores on their feathers and that the birds also produced a
different type of preen oil that was not as hydrophobic.
On superhydrophobic surfaces, water droplets bead up and sit on the surface almost like spheres.
Kavehpour and his colleagues believe it's the sphere-like geometry that
delays ice formation, since it's difficult for heat to flow out of the
water droplet if the droplet does not make much contact with the
scientists were keen to unlock the penguins' de-icing secrets because
they could lead to new solutions for preventing ice forming on aeroplane
wings, for example.
The scientists were keen to unlock the
penguins' de-icing secrets because they could lead to new solutions for
preventing ice forming on aeroplane wings, for example. Ice on the
flaps and rudder can alter the aerodynamic properties of a plane and
even cause it to crash. A stock image of de-icing is shown
Ice on the flaps and rudder can alter the aerodynamic properties of a plane and even cause it to crash.
airlines spend lots of time and money applying chemical de-icers to
planes that fly in winter weather, superhydrophobic surfaces inspired by
penguins could be cheaper, longer-lasting and more environmentally
'It's a little ironic that a bird that doesn't fly could one day help aeroplanes fly more safely,' Professor Kavehpour said.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — When the African penguins Derek and Geirfugl were given their own room last spring, keepers at the Greensboro Science Center questioned whether they liked each other enough to take their relationship to the next level.
was more interested in interacting with her human keepers than with
other penguins. And when she did start to flirt with Geirfugl, leaning
toward him and flicking her head back and forth, the male bird did not
return the sentiment.
mid-September, though, the relationship had taken an amorous turn. On a
recent afternoon, they nestled beside each other inside a plastic crate
— on a nest containing two eggs. “Geirfugl
is actually a really good mate,” said Shannon Fletcher, a keeper at the
science center. “He’s done all of the collecting for their nest box.
He’s been very protective of her.”
the wild, African penguins, which inhabit the coast of South Africa and
Namibia, choose their partners from a pool of thousands and mate for
life. In captivity, the limited size of the colonies — and the need to
perpetuate a genetically diverse species — make human intervention
African penguin population has declined more than 60 percent over the
past 30 years, and the species is now considered endangered. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums
runs a “species survival” program among the nearly 50 facilities with
African penguin colonies, including the science center here.
gather the genetic information on more than 800 birds held around the
country and make breeding recommendations based on which are least
related to one another. The facilities maintain “studbooks” that track the information and carry out prescribed breeding and transfer plans.
of the newer facilities to join the program, the Greensboro center
started its penguin colony — now 17 birds — just over two years ago. As
it turns out, while the science guiding the plan is fairly
straightforward, penguin group dynamics are not. “One
day this penguin likes this penguin, and the next day, they’re not
talking,” said Carmen Murray, a former senior keeper. “They’re flirting
and trying to get attention, or being a bully and picking on a certain
penguin preferences rarely correspond exactly with species management
plan mandates, the keepers are responsible for managing the penguins’
love lives, often by gently trying to convince certain birds that they
fancy each other, while keeping other potential partners distracted.
Breeding healthy penguins is both a science and an art, said Steve Sarro, curator of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and coordinator of the zoo association’s African penguin program. “The
science is in the medicine and nutrition, and the art is in the keeper
staff, the institutions, knowing their animals,” he said. “You need to
be able to finesse your colony so you get the best out of them.”
in June 2013, the glass-walled penguin enclosure at the Greensboro
science center contains a 9,500-gallon pool of water against a backdrop
of faux granite rocks. The penguins here lead soap-opera lives, to hear
their keepers tell it.
Geirfugl was bonding with a bird named Kaapse, for example, the couple
took nesting too far and began hoarding rocks from the exhibit — more
than 100 pounds — in their nesting box, crushing a couple of eggs. After
the keepers set them up in a room with a nesting box and a few token
rocks, they turned out to be wonderful parents.
the female pair began to compete with Apollo, Tux’s former mate, and
his new spouse for a nest box, the keepers gave the females one of their
own, praying it would prevent Tux from sabotaging her ex’s current
there are the star-crossed lovers Guinn, a male with prized genes, and
Jumoke, whose genetic makeup is less optimal. Guinn doesn’t much care
about that. “Even
when he and his assigned mate are doing well, he keeps coming back to
Jumoke,” Ms. Murray said. Guinn would serve the species by moving on, of
course, but he just can’t quit her.
Dobrogosz, executive director of the science center, describes managing
the birds as a matter of prioritizing the long-term well-being of the
species over the individual preferences of the penguins.
people would say that’s not fair or nice, because you’re taking a bond
that has previously formed and you’re breaking it up, but we’re not
seeing any negative repercussions to it whatsoever,” Mr. Dobrogosz said. “Their
new bonds seem to be happy. They’re getting along, they’re building
nests together, they’re cooperating, they’re switching off laying on the
eggs. Ultimately, 10, 20, 30 years down the road, it’s better for the
the interpersonal challenges, the penguins have been very successful
breeders. All seven couples designated to mate last year produced
the wild, however, African penguins face continued threats, mostly from
people. The collection of guano for fertilizer has deprived them of the
material they use to build burrows. Oil spills
in 1994 and 2000 killed 30,000 birds despite rehabilitation efforts.
And commercial overfishing has forced the birds to swim much farther for
hundred fifty years ago, there were millions in the wild,” said Mr.
Sarro, of the Smithsonian. “Now we’re down to 18,000 breeding pairs.”
spring, the zoo association launched a campaign focused on restoring
endangered animals’ wild populations to healthy levels. Because of their
vulnerability, African penguins were among the first four species
association hopes captive colonies will act as ambassadors for their
wild counterparts, building public support for conservation efforts.
at the science center, Derek and Geirfugl warmed their eggs in the back
room as several other adult pairs sat on eggs in their nest boxes. Two
chicks born last year, Jordy and Keuchly, stood pressed together on a
rock overlooking the pool of water, grooming each other’s face feathers. “The
yearlings are definitely practicing,” Ms. Fletcher, the keeper, said.
“But they’re in that awkward teen phase. They’re trying to figure it all
August 31, an endangered black-footed penguin chick hatched at the
Aquarium. Weighing in at 56.9 grams (about 2 ounces), this new chick is
the second offspring for penguin pair Puddles and Millicent. Aquarium
visitors may remember Puddles and Millicent as the first-time parents of
Chicory, the young penguin that hatched out just last April.
Aviculturists nicknamed the new arrival “Elmer" after they repaired a
broken bit of shell with glue during incubation.
Chattanooga (WTVC) — This year four
penguins were born at the Tennessee Aquarium. Staff at the Aquarium just
learned all four penguins are females and will need your help coming up
with names. Before the penguin naming contest begins the first week of
December, watch the video to learn a little more about their four
It's a boy!
The Jacksonville Zoo announced the gender of its first-ever penguin chick Saturday morning.
than 100 people came out for the reveal. Guests were dressed in blue
and pink depending on what they thought the gender was.
Mango and Mister Big are now the proud parents of CJ.
The boy is named after the two grandsons of Peggy Wilchek, a long-time zoo volunteer and penguin advocate.
She and her husband John have traveled the world to see all 18 species of penguins in the wild.?
The Penguin Camera is located on Torgersen Island (64°46’S, 64°04’W), off the coast of Anvers Island and less than a mile from Palmer Station. Torgersen Island is home to a colony of Adélie penguins numbering approximately 2,500. This camera is seasonal and operates primarily from October to February, the Adélie breeding season. The camera is solar-powered and may sometimes experience brief outages due to inclement weather. School classrooms and other educational demonstrations will often take control of the camera, moving it to gain better views of the colony.
A lifelong student and confirmed polymath, I am currently writing my 2nd book this spring. I have an AS in Biology, a BA and an MA in English, plus I began a degree in Geology while living in CA. I am a retired herpetologist, but my blogs and current interests strive to promote animal conservation, particularly Penguins,Wolves, and Big Cats. I live with the loves of my life, Sissy, a Chihuahua, and Joey, Alero, Jillian, Loki, Jadin, Perse, Socks and Siggy - my ThunderCats - who help me cope with narcolepsy.