Journeys with Emperors: Tracking the World's Most Extreme Penguin (Hardcover)
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With stunning photographs from the ice edge, a 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, showing us how scientists gained access to it, and what they learned while living among the penguins as they raised their chicks.
The primary mission was to record the birds’ activities at sea, and the data revealed important aspects of emperor penguin behavior and physiology: for instance, 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, which is deeper than for any other diving bird). The researchers also discovered that, crucially, most of the emperor’s life is actually spent at sea, with fledged chicks and adults making separate, perilous journeys through icy water. 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. The nearness of the colony to the ice edge spared the penguins the long, energy-draining march for which other colonies are well-known. It also allowed researchers to observe the penguins’ departures to and arrivals from their foraging journeys, as well as their dangerous interactions with leopard seals and killer whales.
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.
About the Author
Gerald L. Kooyman is professor emeritus and a research physiologist in the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. He has made about fifty trips to the Antarctic, and for the last three decades, his work has concentrated on studies of emperor penguins. He is coauthor of Penguins: The Animal Answer Guide.
Jim Mastro spent over six years in Antarctica (including two winters) as a laboratory manager, scientific diving coordinator, dive team leader, and research assistant. Most recently, he worked for several years as technical editor in support of the US Antarctic Program. His coauthored book Under Antarctic Ice: The Photographs of Norbert Wu was named by Discover as one of the twenty best science books of 2004. He lives in New Hampshire.
"Informative sidebars, graphs, and charts explain technical terms in clear language. An annotated bibliography and gorgeous photos round out this treat of a book, which describes what it was like to live among emperor penguins and the challenges and rewards of research in the Antarctic. This book will have armchair travelers, penguin lovers, Antarctic enthusiasts, and science readers rejoicing."
"The 2005 Luc Jacquet documentary March of the Penguins won an Oscar for its depiction of emperor penguins' fifty-kilometer trek over sea ice to their breeding grounds. While such a trek may be common for emperors breeding in colonies around the Antarctic perimeter, it is not the case for the largest colonies in the Ross Sea. To understand emperor penguins here, we must follow them on four critical journeys, each with its own challenges and hazards. In this compelling and accessible book, comparative biologist Kooyman and writer and fellow Antarctic explorer Mastro offer a detailed explanation of all four journeys. A book that will take you [into] the field with scientists to discover those charismatic and fascinating birds."
— PolarJournal (Switzerland), "Our polar book ideas for Christmas"
"An intriguing addition . . . Journeys with Emperors takes us behind the scenes of pioneering scientific expeditions and then follows up with the scientific results in readable, layman’s language. The bifurcated organization works thanks to the use of a single authoritative narrative voice, a careful arrangement of scientific details, and a sense of wonder that infuses every chapter, whether it’s about hiking over a glacier or the benefits of anaerobic metabolisms. It’s a very enjoyable book to read. It also gives insight into the scientific way of looking at birds and their habitat, and the personal costs and rewards of a life devoted to scientific obsession."
— 10,000 Birds
“[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
“Journeys with Emperors follows a decades-long quest to study the largest, deepest diving, most colorful, and most isolated of the penguins. Readers are literally a part of the research expedition. It is the trials and tribulations, successes and failures of Kooyman and his research team that are at the core of this book. An iconic Antarctic bird makes it all the more engaging, and you walk away with an appreciation of how unique these birds are, as are the people who study them. Everyone will be the better for having read this book, and perhaps, emperor penguins will benefit from such an informed population; I can think of no higher praise.”
— Terrie M. Williams, author of "The Odyssey of KP2: An Orphan Seal and a Marine Biologist’s Fight to Save a Species"
“This remarkable book is the most authoritative and readable account of the biology of emperor penguins ever written. Of equal significance is that through example, Kooyman provides insight into the importance of patiently observing and documenting aspects of the natural history of this extraordinary bird, over a period of decades. Collectively, those observations facilitated a stream of original ideas, and the technology needed to test them. As such, Journeys with Emperors models how to successfully conduct long-term research on a wild species in a truly challenging environment.”
— Ian Stirling, FRSC, research scientist emeritus, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and adjunct professor, University of Alberta, Canada
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