Penguins Have the Right of Way!

schetter with penguins
Me with a gentoo penguin colony – they were not bothered by my presence!

Penguins have the right of way at land or sea. The first thing I noticed when we landed at Peterman Island (off the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula) was long sled tracks down the hillside.

penguin sled tracks
Those tracks all from sledding penguins!

As I walked to take a closer look, I had to wait for a fearless gentoo penguin to cross the path in front of me.

penguins right of way

Winter childhood memories flooded my heart when I then saw several penguins tobogganing, sliding down the hills, on their stomachs. Penguins often choose this behavior to move across land, appearing to use their flippers and feet to swim through snow and ice – much more efficient than walking with short legs.

penguins tobaggon behavior
Tobogganing is a common penguin behavior to travel on land. 


Hiking up to higher ground offered a beautiful view of the entrance of the Lamaire Channel, where biologist Fabrice Genevois gave me a quick history lesson of the area.

vista view
Beautiful view from Peterman Island

The island was named upon its discovery in 1873 for geographer August Peterman. We could see where French explorer Charcot wrote ‘PP’ on a rock in 1909. This stands for his vessel, Porquoi Pas, which they overwintered with to collect data about the environment including high tides.

Would the data and stories I collect for GLOBE and the H2yOu Project ( be discussed over 100 years later? Of course I don’t know this, but I know it’s important to learn about the world around us and share what we find for now, and for generations to come.


We collected water with a bucket from the shore of Peterman Island to test for nitrates, ph, temperature, and conductivity.

When I approached the shore, penguins were gleefully diving in before me, so we had to wait for them to clear the area before tossing the bucket in, remembering that penguins have the right of way! 11-year-old Isabel Gray helped collect data using an anemometer to measure wind speed on this windiest continent on earth. It was calm skies until just then, when the winds suddenly kicked up from nearly zero to 6.8 m/s.

anonometer test with isabel gray
Measuring wind speed on the windiest continent on earth!

The quick change in wind lowered the wind chill, making it more challenging to manipulate the water testing probes.

water testing attracts crowd
I recruited help testing water as my hands got colder from the wind picking up suddenly

At that moment, I gazed at the refuge hut built in 1955 by Argentina. If I didn’t have the Ocean Endeavor to return to for warmth soon, I’d be seeking shelter and emergency supplies from the harsh Antarctic climate!

refuge hut
The country of Argentina stocks this hut in case shelter and supplies are needed in an emergency.  

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