National Geographic : 1968 Oct
the world's most famous penguin nesting places. Here, for six years, a team of research ers under Johns Hopkins University physician and zoologist William J. L. Sladen has studied the antic 18-inch-high Adelies (pages 590-91) and stately four-foot-tall emperors. I hitched a copter ride to visit them. "It's been a rough year," Dr. Sladen told me. "Two bad storms swept the cape. One in late winter decimated the emperor colony nearby. It killed or swept to sea perhaps 1,000 young birds. Not a single chick survived." Again in November a great gale struck. "I saw countless Adelies hurled end over end," Dr. Sladen said. "Hundreds of adults were killed, and thousands of eggs were splattered everywhere. Our wind gauge took off after going well over 100 miles an hour." Enough of the 300,000 Adelies at Cape Crozier rode out the storm, however, to assure their return this year. Right about now, they'll In the bag, a Weddell seal lies quietly on the ice of McMurdo Sound as a biologist from New Zealand's Scott Base prepares to tag it for migration studies. Several hundred a year are thus marked. Seals, some weighing half a ton, regularly sunbathe here on the "Riviera of Antarctica." 578 be swimming, waddling, and tobogganing on their bellies back across the pack ice, drawn by instinct and an incredible sense of direc tion to this same bare, stony point of land where they themselves were hatched. To test their homing ability, Cape Crozier birds and others from the Soviet base at Mirnyy have been taken as far as the South Pole, on the high central plateau, then re leased and tracked. The flightless birds peered at the sun for a few moments, then set off without hesitation for the sea, each group in its own right direction. If clouds blanketed the sun, however, the birds became totally disoriented, wandering around in random directions. Thus the trackers confirmed that penguins somehow navigate by the sun and, by some innate sense of time, can correct for the steady swing of the summer sun around the polar sky. Dr. Richard L. Penney of Rockefeller Pedaling to nowhere, hospital corpsman Steve Church burns energy while breathing thin, icy outdoor air piped into the South Pole Station. Physiologist Albert Joern, taking blood from an artery, studies how the human body reacts to low oxygen and temperature levels, as in space.