- Picture Galleries in Science

First Contact: Pictures of the Emperor Penguin Colony

When the 9,000-strong emperor penguin colony on Antarctica’s Princess Ragnhild Coast received its first ever human visitors in December 2012, it was three team members from the polar research station Princess Elisabeth Antarctica: expedition leader Alain Hubert, station chief mechanic Kristof Soete and Swiss mountain guide Raphael Richard who travelled to the colony.

The remote colony of one-metre-tall emperor penguins was first discovered in satellite imagery by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, and published in a 2009 paper “Penguins from space: faecal stains reveal the location of emperor penguin colonies”. However, the colony's existence was unconfirmed until the visit from the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica team, who had been supporting the work of glaciologists carrying out scientific research on the Derwael Ice Rise, some 50km from the colony, and 250km from the zero emission base.

  • The newly-discovered 9,000-strong emperor penguin colony on Antarctica’s Princess Ragnhild Coast.

  • The difficult traverse, using a skidoo to reach the emperor penguin colony.

  • The newly-discovered 9,000-strong emperor penguin colony on Antarctica’s Princess Ragnhild Coast.

  • Some of the elegant occupants of the newly-discovered colony.

  • Princess Elisabeth Antarctica skidoo at the penguin colony.

  • Expedition leader Alain Hubert, one of the three first people to visit the 9,000-strong emperor penguin colony on Antarctica’s Princess Ragnhild Coast.

  • Princess Elisabeth Antarctica chief mechanic Kristof Soete, one of the three first people to visit the colony

  • Emperor Penguins: Adults and chicks

  • Emperor Penguins: Adults and chicks

  • Emperor Penguins: Adults and chicks

  • One that didn't make it. A dead penguin chick lies at in the snow. Only 19% of emperor penguin chicks survive their first year.

  • Adults and chicks at the newly-discovered 9,000-strong emperor penguin colony on Antarctica’s Princess Ragnhild Coast.