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Stage Three Begins: On the Ground in Penguin City

where are we today?

We turned up at the helicopter ready room this morning at 7:45. Flying with us were two passengers who had been trying to get to Cape Crozier since last Friday, but each day the area’s fierce winds beat back the helicopters.

But our so-far incredible luck with weather held, and today was blue and clear. We arrived in 20 mph winds – not really worth mentioning by Cape Crozier standards – and by evening it was dead calm. The camp sits just below a mountain pass and looks out on a majestic scene: slopes of brown rock tumbling into a blue plain of ice and open water. Our three companions for the next week – researchers Grant Ballard, Viola Toniolo, and Kirsten Lindquist – welcomed us to their hut, and before we knew it we were knee-deep in penguins.

It’s true. Adélie penguins come up to about your knee – a little higher if they stretch their necks or gather their feet together and jump up to nip at you. And they are here at Cape Crozier by the tens of thousands. The hillsides are speckled black, white, and brown with the penguins and their nests. The air fills with the sounds of penguins greeting their mates. Little penguin squabbles break out when one bird gets too far inside another’s territory. And all along the shore and on nearby icebergs, every flat surface is lined with penguins.

Read on about our adventure in the slideshow below. Can't see the slideshow? Get the Flash plug in»

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