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Journeys with Emperors

Tracking the World’s Most Extreme Penguin

With stunning photographs from the ice edge, this firsthand account of a researcher’s time in Antarctica and of the perilous journeys of the world’s largest penguin species: the iconic emperor.
Nearly all emperor penguin colonies are extremely remote; of the sixty-six known, fewer than thirty have been visited by humans, and even fewer have been the subject of successful research programs. One of the largest known emperor penguin colonies is found on a narrow band of sea ice attached to the Antarctic continent. In Journeys with Emperors, Gerald L. Kooyman and Jim Mastro take us to this far-flung colony in the Ross Sea, revealing how scientists gained access to it, and what they learned while living among the penguins as they raised their chicks.
The Ross Sea colony is close to the ice edge, which spares the penguins the long, energy-draining march for which other colonies are well-known. But life at this colony is not without movement. The proximity of the ice edge to the birds allowed researchers to observe the penguins as they came and went on their foraging journeys, including their interactions with leopard seals and killer whales. What the scientists witnessed revealed important aspects of emperor penguin behavior and physiology. For instance, they discovered that in the course of hunting for food, some of the penguins dive to depths of greater than five hundred meters (a third of a mile, deeper than any other diving bird). And crucially: most of the emperor’s life is actually spent at sea, with fledged chicks and adults making separate, perilous journeys across icy water—to mature or to feed before they must fast while they molt. When chick nurturing is complete, the fledglings abandon the colony in large groups, heading north to the Southern Ocean. The adults leave at the same time, traveling one thousand kilometers eastward across the Ross Sea to a sea-ice sanctuary for molting. During this journey, they must gain enough weight to survive the month-long molt, when every feather is replaced and the birds cannot enter the water to feed. After the molt, many if not most return to the colony to breed once again. For the males, this means another fast—this time for 120 days as they incubate their eggs.
Featuring original color photographs and complemented with online videos, Journeys with Emperors is both an eye-opening overview of the emperor penguin’s life and a thrilling tale of scientific discovery in one of the most remote, harsh, and beautiful places on Earth.

256 pages | 25 color plates, 46 halftones | 6 x 9

Biological Sciences: Behavioral Biology, Natural History, Physiology, Biomechanics, and Morphology


“Kooyman recounts his tale of one of the most iconic examples of charismatic megafauna in a way that captures both the magnitude of his science and the elegant descriptions and personal anecdotes that transport the reader to the ice (all through the lens of a changing climate). His acts of veritable heroism—raging-river crossings, risky glacial traverses, frequent excursions on figurative and literal thin ice—were simply routine components of his daily scientific procedures.”

Jessica Ulrika Meir, PhD, comparative physiologist and NASA astronaut, from the foreword

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 A Meeting with Emperor Penguins
Chapter 2 The Kings of Saint Andrews Bay
Chapter 3 The Seven Colonies of the Ross Sea
Chapter 4 The Emperors of Cape Washington
Chapter 5 Kings and Emperors in One Year
Chapter 6 The Commuter Journey
Chapter 7 The Fledging Journey
Chapter 8 The Pre-molt Journey
Chapter 9 The Post-molt Journey
Chapter 10 How Do They Do It?
Chapter 11 Predator as Prey
Chapter 12 Climate, Conservation, and Consumption
Annotated Bibliography

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