Voice 1: Cape Denison is a peninsula jutting out into the ocean near Commonwealth Bay in Antarctica. The Australian explorer who named it back in 1912 wrote in his diary that it ‘was the windiest place on Earth.’
Voice 2: On either side and behind the peninsula, great white cliffs of ice rise into the pale blue sky. But suddenly out of nowhere a fierce blizzard blows up and everything vanishes in a blanket of snow and ice. What could possibly live in a place like this? Could any living creature call this frozen landscape home?
Voice 1: Cape Denison was once home to a large colony of more than a hundred and fifty thousand penguins. That’s a lot of birds! The place was perfect for them: sub-zero temperatures, deep banks of snow to snuggle up into and an ocean full of fish. What more could a happy penguin want?
Voice 2: But today, the penguins’ future looks bleak. In 2013, only ten thousand birds remained of this once thriving colony, and experts estimate that the whole colony could be wiped out within two years.
Voice 1: The penguins of Cape Denison used to live near a large expanse of open ocean that provided them with ample supplies of fish which meant the colony grew. But in 2010, a gigantic iceberg measuring two thousand nine hundred square kilometres - Hong Kong Island is eighty point four square kilometres for comparison - floated into the bay and got trapped.
Voice 2: This mountain of ice cut off the penguins’ supply of fish. Making the colony landlocked with no access to the ocean or food.
Voice 1: The penguins now have to travel a distance of at least sixty kilometres to fish, and this has had a devastating effect on their numbers. Some of the hungry birds simply do not make the trip to the newest fishing grounds, and die of exhaustion on the way.
Voice 2: Studies carried out by the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Australia estimate that the Cape Denison colony of penguins will be gone in less than two years unless the ocean breaks up the iceberg or currents dislodge it and move it out to sea.
Voice 1: And the situation for the penguins is getting worse. During the past year, ice expansion has made the distance they have to travel to fish even greater. Fewer birds are managing to return to their breeding ground after they fish, and when they do, they are failing to hatch their eggs or rear their chicks.
Voice 2: Ornithologists from Australia who recently visited Cape Denison found hundreds of abandoned eggs and thousands of dead chicks on the ice. Only a natural miracle will now save the penguins here.