1997 Photo Contest, Nature, Stories, 2nd prize
Photographer

Frans Lanting

for National Geographic

01 January, 1996

An emperor chick's first weeks are spent cocooned in the dense plumage of its parent's brood pouch, whose constant temperature ensures survival. Outside, the chick would freeze to death in two minutes. At the onset of the Antarctic winter, all creatures flee north to escape the most forbidding environment on earth - except the emperor penguins. Not only do these regal birds brave the inclement climate, but this is also their mating season. Each impregnated female lays a single egg, which the male then incubates for nine weeks, braving blizzards and bitter cold. After the chicks have spent two months in their parent's pouch, they are left in a 'day-care center' where they huddle together for warmth. As the ice hardens in March, penguin colonies numbering between a few hundred and 60,000 congregate in Antarctica's Weddell Sea. The largest of 17 penguin species, adult emperors measure up to 1.22m and weigh over 27kg.

About

Frans Lanting

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