You can distinguish gentoos by their orange beaks and the white spots above their eyes. They've traditionally nested farther north, around the Falkland, South Georgia and South Shetland islands. But more and more since the early 1990s, they've been moving south onto the Antarctic Peninsula.
Kristen Gorman, a graduate researcher here who has been studying the penguins near Palmer for five seasons, says the arrival of gentoos on the Antarctic Peninsula is related to rising temperatures. "As it has warmed along the peninsula over 30 to 50 years, the penguin community has changed," she says. Temperatures on the peninsula have risen by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 50 years, making conditions more welcoming to gentoo penguins from the north.
These gentoos seemed relaxed, basking in the sun with their eyes closed. I crept out on some nearby rocks, and they hardly noticed me. Hundreds of photos later (yes, hundreds — it's a problem), they seemed downright uninterested in me and the small clicking machine I kept pointing at them.
Eventually, hunger got the best of me, and I headed to the galley to catch the tail end of lunch. Not only did I get some great penguin shots, but I also learned a valuable lesson: It pays to always carry a camera around here. You never know where wildlife will turn up.
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