By Sarah Sekula, published in USA TODAY // photos by Leah Murr
ANTARCTICA — It’s 10:30 a.m. on Danco Island, and it’s clearly time for the penguins to make the daily trek to the icy water. As they waddle down the snow-covered mountain, a group of visitors is strategically perched on rocks at the end of the penguin highway, a well-worn trail allowing for a single-file parade.
Minutes later, the first Gentoo shows up. Its fur-like feathers glisten in the sunlight. Close behind are four dozen of its web-footed cohorts. Step after clumsy step, they reach the highway’s end which gives way to pebbles, boulders and glassy water. One by one they take unsteady hops from rock to rock.
Necks down. Tails up. Wings back.
One plunges in and out of the water in fine torpedo-like fashion. Another stands just beyond the shoreline and raises its beak to the sky, letting out a string of squawks. A handful of neighbors do the same in what becomes an impressive penguin choir of guttural gurgles and sounds reminiscent of squeaky toys.