Oceanwide meets the Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island, Antarctica
The Emperor penguin of Antarctica, is the tallest of all penguin species, reaching a size of 122 cm and weighting up to 45 kg. It is the only penguin species that breed during the cold Antarctic winter on Snow Hill Island, where air temperatures may drop to minus 40 degrees Celsius.
The colony was first located in 1997 during an overflight at 64.31 southern latitude on the pack-ice at Snow Hill Island in the Antarctic Weddell Sea, completely hidden for the outside world and unreachable for any ice-strengthened vessel.
Ortelius near Snow Hill Island © James Cresswell - Oceanwide Expeditions
The Emperor penguins became super stars in the 2005-feature film March of the Penguins (with actor Morgan Freeman as narrator) and one year later in the animation children’s movie Happy Deet, with voices of Nicole Kidman and Elijah Wood (portraying Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings) as the voice of leading character Mumble.
An almost mythical desire was created to visit the “unreachable” rookery of emperors. Not during the winter, but during spring when a strong ice-strengthened vessel could reach the region and offer helicopter flights to the habitat of the Emperors and their chicks. Oceanwide Expeditions therefore equipped her strongest ice-strengthened vessel Ortelius with a helicopter deck and after a first attempt in 2012 (the vessel was blocked by heavy sea-ice in the entrance of the Weddell Sea), Ortelius started another expedition on 23 November 2013. On 26 November Ortelius made good progress in the Weddell Sea, offering a landing on Brown Bluff with Adélie penguins.
Expedition leader Delphine Aurès reported: “then we proceeded in clear water all the way to east Snow Hill Island. The first discovery helicopter flight was stunning and we found the penguins. The evening light was so stunning with the ship parked in the pack-ice and we offered our first scenic flights”.
The next day, on 27 November, Oceanwide Expeditions started the helicopter operation at 04.00 AM which lasted till 4.30 PM. For expedition leader Delphine Aurès this was a glorious achievement: “We did it!! We flew everyone and all had three hours ashore, great hike among icebergs and a glorious encounter with the Emperor penguin colony with plenty of small chicks”.
Emperor penguins on Snow Hill Island © Douglas Newson - Oceanwide Expeditions
We will continue our operation to the penguin rookery today, 29 November, and invite all future passengers, looking for an unique Polar experience, to embark our vessel Ortelius for another Emperor penguin voyage in November and December 2014.
Oceanwide Expeditions is not just a polar cruise company, Oceanwide offers true discovery voyages, offering the best nature and wildlife experience in the Arctic and Antarctica and is the award winner of the World Travel Award, world’s leading Polar Expedition Tour Operator.