Vendée Globe 2008: Penguins in Antarctica

Late last month, Skipper Wilson had a conversation on the satellite phone with a teacher studying Adélie penguins in Cape Royds, Antarctica. Ms. Jean Pennycook is a high school teacher from Fresno, California, and every year for the last three years she has been spending time with researcher Dr. David Ainley studying and documenting the Adélie penguins and the way their habitat is changing due to global warming.

Adélie penguins are a smaller breed of penguins. They grow to be 1.5-2.5 feet tall and weigh about 10 pounds. During the colder months in the Southern Hemisphere, the Adélies, who cannot fly, live on ice floating in the sea and fish in the ocean. But each December, when the weather warms, they return to the coast of Antarctica and its surrounding islands. They flock to the areas where the beaches slope gently up from the sea and where they can build nests out of rocks and lay their eggs. (In case you’re wondering about some of the cartoon penguins you’ve seen in movies, Adélie penguins are more like the ones in Madagascar than the main characters in Happy Feet.)

Unfortunately, scientists have found that the world is warming. It’s not something that most people notice on a day-to-day basis, but by measuring and comparing data over time, researchers have found that the slight increase in temperature is causing the ice in Antarctica to melt. This means that the places where the Adélies live is disappearing. As there are fewer places to live and hunt for food and as ice floes where the birds summer drift too far from where they can breed, the penguins begin to die off. Today only 5 million Adélie penguins still live in the Antarctic region, but their colonies have shifted from the northern areas of the continent, which have grown too warm, to the cooler southern areas.

SitesALIVE! has put together a great video to go with the phone conversation between Skipper Wilson and Ms. Pennycook. Check it out! And while you’re there, take a look at some of the resources Ms. Pennycook thinks you’d find helpful in learning more about Adélie penguins. As always, make sure you stop by to read Skipper Wilson’s latest log to see how his trip north is going.

Iceburgs and Penguins (6-8)
In this lesson from Xpeditions, students read a National Geographic News article about the impact of ice building on penguin breeding in Antarctica.


Demonstrating Comprehension through Journal Writing (3-5)
his lesson invites students to demonstrate comprehension by responding to open-ended questions based on the 1939 Newbery Honor chapter book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, which features a family of Adélie penguins.

Adélie Penguin (K-12)
This National Geographic resource highlights the Adélie penguin and includes an animal profile and fast facts about the bird.


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