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The penguin counters

Petermann Island, situated halfway down the Antarctic Peninsula, is the home to both Gentoo and Adélie penguin colonies.

I was fortunate to have visited this island as part of a tour group many years ago. And it was there that I met the researchers with Oceanities, a non-profit group that has been counting the penguins on this island (and others) for many years.

Counting penguins may seem like a simple task, but it is anything but — as you can see this in the video released by Oceanities and its sponsoring tour operator Lindblad. I recommend having a look.

Here are some factoids from the video:

  • Penguins have the highest density of feathers of any other living bird.
  • The Adélie has 100 feathers per square inch.
  • Adélie nests have decreased in number on Petermann Island by 5% over the past year, while the Gentoo nests have increased.
  • This is likely due to the change in climate. The western half of the Antarctic Peninsula has seen temps rise 5 degrees celsius in 50 years. Adélie penguins are true Antarctic penguins, like the Emperor, so it’s possible — or likely — that the warmth is having a negative impact.

It is because of the penguin counters that we know this.

In my novel The Tourist Trail I write about a penguin counter based in Patagonia. Her penguin of choice is the Magellanic and her weather conditions much less severe, but the data she is gathering is just as valuable. Penguins have much to tell us about the state of the oceans and the future of our planet.

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