From storybook snowcapped mountains to the poles, Earth’s cold spots make for an interesting experience. Ski antics and monster sightings aside, ice fields can produce things that scientists have never seen before, clues about history, and even far-reaching disasters that are born in the Arctic.
Tourists travel to remote places to witness fantastic events, while icebergs and shelves behave in ways that scientists cannot explain. But the frozen depths can also hold some of the most terrifying discoveries and disappearances in the natural world.
Not many floundering species get the chance to bump up their numbers almost overnight by 1.5 million. In 2018, scientists announced the discovery of a mega-colony of penguins in Antarctica’s Danger Islands. They were a noisy bunch of Adelie penguins, a medium-size species that has lost over 70 percent of its global flock.
The new throng unexpectedly turned up during a satellite survey of the islands’ first bird census. When the data was first analyzed, researchers thought the numbers were faulty. But when they went onshore, it was hard to unsee the 750,000 breeding pairs that greeted them . It was the highest cluster in the region and the third- and fourth-largest colonies in the world.
Global warming continues to mow down their numbers elsewhere, but the nine islands are relatively stable and will remain so for some time. In addition, the remoteness and dangerous sea ice prevent human interference. The busiest island is Heroina Island where perhaps one ship docks every year.