Torgersen Island, Antarctica

Fen MontaigneKindly Contributed by Fen Montaigne Author of Fraser's Penguins. 

Torgersen Island, which is customarily visited by expedition ships visiting the U.S. Palmer Station, is a bustling place during the day. Two of the largest remaining Adelie penguin colonies in the region are on the north side of Torgersen, and lines of adult Adelies shuttle to and from the sea as they scramble to feed their rapidly growing chicks. In the long summer twilight, however, Torgersen Island quiets down.

As the reproductive season draws to a close, exhausted adult Adelies gather on remnant snowbanks on the island's south shore, far from their wheedling offspring. I spent a couple of nights on Torgersen Island, and sat for long periods of time watching these adult penguins. Dozens of Adelies slept nearby, still as statues in the fading light. Others stood on the snow, having just come in from the sea, and shook their heads, swished their tails, and preened their black and white feathers. They went silently about their business, their poses dignified and stoic as they prepared to continue the feeding of their large and hungry chicks. To the east, the glaciated, sawtooth peaks that run down the spine of the Antarctic Peninsula were illuminated by a soft, pink light. Out to sea, long, tabular icebergs were sillhouetted against a golden band of sky.

Engrossed in the scene, I failed to notice that two penguins have silently walked to within ten feet of me. They had lain down on the cobble and seemed to be asleep, their eyes gently opening and closing. Turning around to look at the penguin rookery, I saw scores of Adelies walking silently toward me, their breasts faintly glowing white in the last of the light.