An Adelie penguin colony tells a sobering tale about climate change
Information about Torgersen Island
Torgersen Island is a very small, circular island only 450yds across. It’s part of the Palmer Archipelago and is at the entrance to Arthur Harbour on the southwest coast of Anvers Island.
It’s a popular site for breeding seabirds and Adelie penguins, but this small rock has a much larger, and more depressing, importance.
Although the current colony size of 3,000 breeding pairs seems large, since 1974 the Adelie population has reduced by over 60% due to the impact of climate change on the sea ice and snowfall patterns. An Adelie colony that was based on the neighboring Litchfield Island has disappeared completely in this time. Archeological surveys showed that penguins had been nesting there for over 600 years continuously, with up to 15,000 pairs in residence at a time. By 2007 they had all gone.
The island is very close to the American Palmer Station and it is divided into a Visitor Zone and a Restricted Zone. The Visitor Zone is for general access, whilst the Restricted Zone serves as a control site for scientific research related to human impacts. The Restricted Zone should not be entered, except in an emergency to access the emergency cache located on slopes opposite the landing site. Use the cache only in a genuine emergency and notify Palmer Station if anything is used.
Your expert Antarctic guides will show you the walking routes to take that will minimize any impact to the Adelie colony on Torgersen Island, as well as outlining the concerns that Antarctic scientists have about the continuing impact of climate change on the region’s wildlife.
This is a timely reminder of the necessity for change in the way humans live and use fossil fuels if we are to preserve the unique species and landscapes of the Antarctic. At Polartours we are playing our part in this story by carbon offsetting every polar cruise package we sell.
Interesting facts about Torgersen Island
Many guests would like to visit Palmer Station, particularly Americans, but only a handful of visit are allowed each season.
The location is just to the south of the Lemaire Channel at the 'start' of the SW section of the peninsula. It has always been a good area for visiting Adelie Penguin colonies, but they have almost disappeared at several sites in this area, including other locations like Petermann Island.
With climate change and sea ice disappearing earlier in the season, it would appear that Gentoo Penguins are expanding further south and slowly expanding, whilst Adelie Penguins are retreating. Luckily, not that far to the south, close to the Ukrainian Vernadsky base, they still breed in good numbers in the Yalour Islands.