New penguin colony discovered near the Antarctic peninsula | Polarjournal
Chinstrap penguins in Antarctica (not on Díaz Rock). (Photo: Heiner Kubny)

The shipping company Viking Ocean Cruises announced that its expedition team has made the discovery of a new, previously unknown chinstrap penguin colony on Díaz Rock near Astrolabe Island in Antarctica. Astrolabe Island is a three-mile-long island in the Bransfield Strait on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The discovery was made in January 2024, when the Vikings expedition ship “Viking Octantis” visited Astrolabe Island.

Díaz Rock is the largest of several cliffs north of the western end of Astrolabe Island. The hitherto unknown colony of chinstrap penguins was discovered during a visit by the expedition ship “Viking Octantis”.
(Photo: Hayley Charleton-Howard)

Astrolabe Island is home to a colony of chinstrap penguins that has not been surveyed since 1987. During the visit, Viking’s scientific partner Oceanites conducted an aerial visual and thermal survey. Oceanites is a non-profit American company known for field research and has been a leader in monitoring Antarctic penguin species for 30 years.

The fieldwork documented the first survey of the already known colony of chinstrap penguins on Astrolabe Island in almost 40 years. During the survey, the team discovered another colony on Diaz Rock. Oceanites announced that more details will be released at a later date.

Astrolabe Island is an island located in the Bransfield Strait to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is home to various species of penguins. The island was discovered and named during the first French Antarctic expedition (1837-1840) under Jules Dumont d’Urville. One of his ships was called L’Astrolabe. (Graphic: Heiner Kubny)

Torstein HagenChairman of Viking: “With our third season in Antarctica underway, we are pleased to have supported another significant scientific development that will allow for further understanding of the region. From the thoughtful design of our expedition vessels, each with a well-appointed Science Lab, to our partnerships with some of the world’s most prestigious institutions, our intention has always been to provide our guests and scientists with opportunities for meaningful discovery during each voyage. We look forward to supporting other critical research opportunities on future voyages.”

The expedition cruise ship “Viking Octantis” is marketed by Viking Expeditions Cruises in the polar regions, along the North and South American continents and on the Great Lakes. (Photo: Viking Expeditions Cruises)

Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica)

The chinstrap penguin lives mainly in the northwest of the Antarctic Peninsula, as well as on a few islands in the South Atlantic and the sub-Antarctic islands. The population is estimated at 7,500,000 breeding pairs, of which 5,000,000 live on the South Sandwich Islands alone. Its characteristic feature is a narrow black stripe running from the back of the head across the throat. They are considered to be the most belligerent of all penguins and are not afraid to attack even much larger animals.

The chinstrap penguin reaches a body size of 71 to 76 centimetres. The main food of chinstrap penguins is krill and some smaller fish species. Chinstrap penguins can dive to depths of up to 100 meters. However, they usually catch their food at depths of between ten and forty meters.

Chinstrap penguins usually hatch two eggs. The nest consists mainly of small stones. This allows the penguins to keep their nest dry, as the water can run off through the loose substrate. (Photo: Heiner Kubny)

Like all penguins, the chinstrap penguin is a colony breeder. During the breeding season itself, which begins around November, very large colonies of several thousand birds occasionally form. The clutch generally consists of two eggs. The male breeds first, while the female sets out to sea to forage. The partners then take turns incubating for periods of five to ten days. The incubation period averages 36.3 days for the first egg and 33.9 days for the second egg.

For the first 20 to 30 days, the young stay in the nest, then they move to a kind of nursery, i.e. a cluster of penguin chicks under the watchful eye of one or two adults. Skuas are one of the greatest dangers for young birds and eggs.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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