Photo by Sue Flood
Photo by Sue Flood
Emperor penguins spend their entire lives in Antarctica, where temperatures can drop below -70°F.
An award-winning photographer’s new book gives a rare glimpse at how emperor penguin colonies manage to thrive on the southernmost continent on Earth.
A trip to Antarctica will change your life.
So says Sue Flood, an award-winning photographer who’s traveled to some of the world’s most remote corners to document wildlife and wilderness. Over the course of her career, Flood has taken approximately 50 trips to the Arctic and Antarctic. It’s not just icy landscapes that fuel her love for the planet’s polar regions—it’s a particular penguin species.
“One of the loveliest moments you can ever hope to experience is to stand in the middle of an emperor penguin colony, hundreds of miles from civilization, surrounded by the extraordinary cacophony of chicks and adults calling to one another,” she says.
Emperor penguins, the largest of all living penguin species, can only be found in Antarctica. Today, as rising temperatures reduce their breeding grounds and overfishing eliminates their food sources, emperor penguins are considered “near threatened.” Flood’s new photography book, Emperor: The Perfect Penguin, showcases the incredible ways these flightless birds survive in one of the harshest environments on Earth.BBC Natural History Unit on documentary series including The Blue Planet and Planet Earth, which were presented by prominent naturalist David Attenborough. During those trips, her fascination with polar environments was fostered.“You feel absolutely dwarfed when you’re standing on something like the Ross Ice Shelf—a piece of ice that’s bigger than France—or you’re standing beside an iceberg that’s the size of a Manhattan skyscraper,” Flood says. “The scale in the Antarctic is tremendous. It’s incredible.”
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“Emperor penguins spend their entire lives either out on the sea ice or feeding in the Southern Ocean,” Flood says. During winter in Antarctica, temperatures can drop to -70°F, and winds on the sea ice can reach more than 90 miles an hour. But the birds are experts at surviving under these extreme conditions.
Each year, they meet to breed around the start of Antarctica’s winter in April. The female penguin lays an egg, then passes it to her male partner to keep the egg safe and warm. She then embarks on a strenuous journey to the open ocean to feed on fish, squid, and krill. When the females return to the breeding grounds (usually around July), they bring with them stomachs full of food, which they regurgitate for their chicks to eat. The female and male emperor penguins then switch duties, with the males heading out to the ocean to do their part in finding nourishment to feed their young.
>> Plan Your Trip with AFAR’s Guide to Antarctica
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