Tales from Antarctica

A few weeks ago, two new colonies of emperor penguins were discovered near the Dumont-Durville base in Antarctica. The ice melt apparently cleared a way to the place where over fifteen thousand penguins had their home, and had previously been undisturbed by big clumsy humans. Luckily though, humans today try to be a little bit less big and clumsy, especially when they go through the trouble of sailing for two weeks between icebergs for the sole purpose of studying penguins. They're content with sliding on their bellies down icy slopes to tag them, and watch them for hours with binoculars, and the colonies can still live in peace.

It's a beautiful discovery, and an important one, too: since humans elsewhere than in Dumont-Durville are still big and clumsy and mostly very stupid, it is very likely that we'll need penguins to teach us all they can about global warming. Learning that there are several thousand more emperos penguins than was previously believed is extremely important to modelise their population dynamics. I'd better stop here before I start blabbering nonsense about biology stuff I don't understand much, but still, it's big. Also penguins are the only creatures known to ruin a perfectly good Lovecraftian moment by showing up in the middle of the Mountains of Madness where a shoggoth was expected. And I hear their chicks are cuter than baby seals, koalas and kittens in a basket of flowers. So, there's that.

Here are two pictures from the discovery:

manchots 1    manchots 2

Antarctica looks like a beautiful place, doesn't it? Look at those colours–blue shadows and tiny black specks, and a perfect sunlight overhead. And there's another moving thing about these pictures: they were among the first ones ever taken of the new colonies. And certainly the best, too: wherever the newspapers write about the discovery, you'll see them in the articles. What the world knows about the new colonies, it knows through those two or three pictures: penguins in the distance, then closer, walking about as if nothing happened. It's the one tiny piece of this spot in Antarctica we're allowed to visit. And they're wonderful pictures.

And the photographer is my brother.


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