May 18 2007

FROM THE ROAD – UH FROM THE ICE

Well hello, Penguin 5 here, posting you from the road – I mean, of course, from the ice. It is good to be about and among my fellow penguins, resting and roaming, lying in the sun, swimming in the sea.

I don’t know about you but I certainly enjoyed Penguin 4’s joke – it was good to laugh again. I’ve made a friend named Fred from the McMurdo Station, Ross Island, here in Antarctica. Her name isn’t really Fred but I don’t really want to get her into trouble in case one of the top mucky-mucks in Washington doesn’t believe in penguins and humans spending too much time together. There are a lot of scientists around here. I got a business card from someone from The Scripps Institution of Oceanography. They get money from the National Science Foundation. They have what they call a Penguin Ranch. Anyway I’m not sure what I think about the name but Fred gave me a bunch of pictures and diagrams documenting some of their work which I’ll share. Maybe you can come up with a better name. I have an idea about the ranch but more about that later.


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The Penguin Ranch – The Research Center, J. Heil



Well you can just imagine how many penguins are flocking and flopping their way over here for a room, or some ice, with a view.


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A Penguin Arrives – The Penguin Ranch, K.Ponganis



The scientists at Penguin Ranch are particularly interested in how we swim and fish and what we talk about after work. They drilled a special hole in the ice with an observation chamber to see us swim. But I’m pretty sure they don’t understand Penguinese. So most of our secrets are safe. Of course a blabbermouth like me isn’t helping matters.


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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors – Or Corrals as the Scientists Say
Emily Stone, National Science Foundation



It’s obviously time for a dip:


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Penguin 4526 Volunteers to Go First
Emily Stone, National Science Foundation



Here is a picture of the observation tube:


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Looking up the observation tube in McMurdo Sound.



And this is what Penguin 4526 looks like from the underwater observation tunnel on his way up to the hole.


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Penguin 4526 Returns to Penguin Ranch
Emily Stone, National Science Foundation



As some of you who have read my previous posts know, I am a bit skeptical about some of the ways human beings are interacting with us.

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Melanie Conner, National Science Foundation



Fred took me to the National Science Foundation’s website. This is what it said about our penguin diving: “The routine occurrence of 500-meter dives during foraging trips is a physiological and behavioral enigma. Ponganis examines pressure tolerance, management of oxygen stores, end-organ tolerance of diving hypoxemia/ischemia, and deep-dive foraging behavior. This information provides insight into human diving physiology and has medical applications for patients whose organs or tissues have been deprived of oxygen due to heart attack, stroke, transplant, etc.” That’s a lot of big words for a small penguin.


Fred, though, is very committed to finding ways to solve the climate crisis. Living here in the Antarctic, she and some of her fellow scientists have a better understanding about our lives – and the importance of the glaciers, the ice, and the delicate balance of life here.


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Some of Fred’s Friends
Kristan Hutchison, National Science Foundation



I’m not really sure that every penguin is pleased with the service at Penguin Ranch but, as Penguin 4 has shown, it helps to tell a penguin joke every now and then.


Anyway, Fred has shared a bit about human life here. And if half of what she says is true, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for some of us penguins to build a Human Ranch with observation windows. Any chance the National Science Foundation would pay for that? Where do we get a grant application? I’m sure we qualify under the income guidelines.


In the meantime, if any of you adult humans out there are interested in some human stories about living and working in and around penguins and for the government, you can check out: Big Dead Place: Welcome to the Program. I’m not sure what Penguin 4 will think about it and there are some bad human words – so please read it before to see whether you want your kids to check it out – but it’s not often we penguins see into the world of penguin-watchers. And it’s good for us penguins to be thinking about something other than penguin problems. Like ice-cubes rather than glaciers.


I’ll leave you with the following:


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Emperors Struggling With Iceberg Blockade
Gerald Kooyman, NSF/Scripps Institution of Oceanography



Keep those cards and letters coming.



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