In Search of Open Water

10" x 15",  Oil on MDF panel,  1995

During the short midday twilight of an early Antarctic winter's day in late May, a group of starving female emperor penguins are walking northwards across the solid pack ice.  Each has laid a single egg in late May / early June and within a few hours has passed it over to her mate. The females then leave immediately and may walk across the frozen pack ice for several hundred kilometres to the north in search of open water. There they will feed and regain their strength before returning to the colony.

Meanwhile, the male emperor penguin incubates the precious egg in the folds of loose skin above his feet for the next nine weeks.  The chick hatches in late July and as the male bird has now not eaten for almost four months he has nothing to give the youngster for nourishment apart from so called 'crop milk'.  The timely return of the female at this point with a crop full of food will ensure the chick's immediate survival.  It is now the turn of the famished male to seek open water and food, before returning, after a month or so, in early September.

 

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