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Going Under the Ice!



SOUTH POLE STATION, ANTARCTICA– The day I arrived at McMurdo I ran into Ron Hipschman and John Weller. They told me they were going to go to the “Penguin Ranch” the next day, and I got permission to go with them. I was very lucky!

The trip was a roughly one hour ride over the sea ice in a dual-tracked vehicle called a MATTRAX.


Mount Erebus from the sea ice.

John Weller, our guide Peggy Malloy, Ron Hipschman and the MATTRAX.

During the trip we could see a few icebergs which were trapped in the sea ice.

What they do at the Penguin Ranch is study emperor penguins. They take a small number of emperor penguins from the coast and put them in a fenced in area on the sea ice. A couple of holes are cut in the ice for the penguins, and the penguins are then able to go swimming any time they want to (they catch their own food). The penguins apparently go diving around once an hour. There are no holes in the ice nearby, so the penguins always come back to the Penguin Ranch when they are done swimming.


Penguin Ranch.

The very beautiful emperor penguins.

A penguin at the start of a dive…

… and jumping back on top of the ice.

The best part of the Penguin Ranch was the observation tube. You can climb down in a narrow tube about 15 feet under the ice and look out some windows. The colors under the ice are amazing, as you can see! It was incredible to be under the ice and also to watch the penguins swimming.


Emperors swimming.

Thanks John and Ron and Peggy for a great day!



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One Response »

  1. Hi Mark,
    How long has the Penguin ranch been in existence? Do they rotate penguins after observing them for awhile? Youe pictures are awesome as usual. We just had freezing rain overnite. I was going to go to the health club this morning around 5. Everything looked okay, but just a little wet. I have 6 cement steps to a landing, then 2 more to the driveway. I slid down the last 3 steps. Needless to say I didn’t think going to the gym was all that important, so I came back in the house and decided to read about IceCube. Hope everything is going well. Take care.

    Jean
    jflor@glbrc.wisc.edu