National Geographic: Antarctic Wildlife Adventure


This is the most empty place

on earth

the place almost

no one goes-Antarctica.

It's the last continent discovered

by explorers,

the last place to be charted and

examined and understood,

the last place to be inhabited.

Even the wildlife here knows

this land is different,

and perhaps it is a mark of

how harsh this land can be

that there is no creature here

that cannot swim or fly away.

This is the last continent on earth

a refuge of sorts for wilderness

and for explorers.

Jerome and Sally Poncet

are explorers and naturalists

who live on a sheep farm

in the Falkland Islands.

A half-dozen times in the

last decade or so,

they've sailed 900 miles south

five days at sea,

to the islands scattered along

the famed Antarctic Penin

Other expeditions come here with

millions of dollars

and the power of governments

to support them.

Sally and Jerome sail by themselves

in a small yacht,

accompanied only by their children,

three boys

Dion-10, live... 8

and Diti-5.

They trek on remote, rocky islands

trying to learn more about this

once unknown and foreboding

continent of rock and ice

while there's still time to protect

the unique balance of

life that exists here.

As usual the Poncets are beginning

this voyage in December

high summer and vacation time

for the boys,

when some days might get as warm as

This will not last long

the Poncets know.

Winter and ice are never

very distant here.

Now development is coming too.

As the Ponects will discover anew

on this voyage,

this last frontier is changing

as never before.

The poncets have gradually come to

concentrate on the odd

and endearing birds

that are native to this place.

They're concerned now that penguins

may become threatened

because many countries and claiming

interests in the riches

that may lie here.

The Poncets will use their boat-part

research vessel,

part home-to search out

penguin colonies all along

the Antarctic Peninsula.

The peninsula reaches up some

toward south America.

The poncets goal is to survey the

size of penguin colonies,

that is, to count them

all the way to Marguerite Bay

at the bottom of the peninsula

even further if the ice

will allow them.

In earlier voyages, they've found

many colonies

no one else has ever seen.

Deception Island-near

the northern end of the peninsula,

early stop for the Poncets,

and the site of a big colony

of one of the three penguin species

dominant on the peninsula: chinstraps.

Scientists use penguins as a

key indicator species

to gauge the health of the entire

delicate Antarctic ecosystem.

To do that, though, they must know

how many penguins are actually here.

If the penguin population changes


the scientists will know something

is wrong here.

That is why the poncets sail and

climb to these remote places

to count the birds.

You can do a rough estimate by just

counting up groups of say

groups of 100.

That's a very rough estimate.

If you want to do it properly, though,

you've got to map out the area

that the colony's occupying

and then work up average density

of the colony and multiply that

...a couple of days work

to do it accurately.

But you can get a good estimate

if you take your time.

In a couple of hours, you can get

a pretty good estimate of it.

But we just compare it with colonies

we know from elsewhere,

like one in particular with 30 to

It's a lot smaller than this.

This is huge. Must be one of the

biggest chinstrap penguin colonies

down on the peninsula

I think-this one

It's gotta be, I think. It's huge.

Chinstrap penguins seldom change mates

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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