Cape Denison Penguins Colony Threatened After Iceberg The Size Of Rome Crashed In Bay

A Cape Denison penguin colony is being threatened after a massive iceberg hit their home. The iceberg that hit the bay the Adelie penguins call home in the eastern region of Antarctica was larger than Luxembourg and about the size of Rome.

Because of the unexpected and massive barrier in the water, about 150,000 penguins had lived in the area. The remaining birds must now travel about 70 miles to garner food. Even before the iceberg hit Commonwealth Bay, the Cape Denison penguins were already working harder to get to the water for food due to the “fast ice expansion” that has hit the region, MSN reports.

The Adelie penguins colony on Cape Denison has experienced a significant population in recent years. A penguin colony has been present in the area for more than a century. The future could be a dim one for the struggling penguins, according to Climate Change Researcher Center researchers from the Australia University of New South Wales.

The scientists fear that the penguin colony will perish in the next two decades unless the gigantic iceberg known as B09B is dislodged from Commonwealth Bay, or the sea ice forming along the coastline breaks up. The iceberg reportedly moved along the coast of Antarctica for about 20 years before it hit the bay and posed a life-threatening scenario for the penguins.

Adelie Penguins

Dr. Kerry-Jayne Wilson, of the West Coast Penguin Trust, stated that “regional changes” prompted by the arrival of the iceberg caused a “catastrophic breeding failure.” Dr. Wilson deemed it a “heart wrenching” scene to watch unfold. She and other researchers recalled walking among thousands of “freeze-dried” penguin chicks and hundreds of abandoned eggs from the last mating season.

A total of 160,000 penguins had called Cape Denison home, but the ice barriers which have emerged since 2011 have reportedly claimed all but 10,000 of the Adelie penguins. The birds typically return to where they were hatched to breed, a habit which has apparently been hampered or outright thwarted by the new ice formations and the iceberg that wedged itself into the bay.

Giant Iceberg Traps Penguin Colony

The Adelie penguins were counted as part of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Professor of Climate Change and Earth Sciences at researcher UNSW, Chris Turney, in 2013 and 2014, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Penguins once thrived in the eastern Antarctic region. Strong winds that blew off of the ice sheet kept a sizable portion of the water from freezing and open for food gathering near the shore. That all changed in December, 2010, when an iceberg floating along Commonwealth Bay became lodged near the coast.

“It’s eerily silent now. The ones that we saw at Cape Denison were incredibly docile, lethargic, almost unaware of your existence. The ones that are surviving are clearly struggling,” Turney said. “They can barely survive themselves, let alone hatch the next generation. We saw lots of dead birds on the ground… it’s just heartbreaking to see.”

Adélies routinely dine on small aquatic critters such as the shrimp-like krill, squid, and small fish. They can dive as deep as 575 feet to secure a meal, according to National Geographic. The Cape Denison penguins usually hunt only in shallow water, but they are very adept swimmers.

What do you think will happen to the Adelie penguins in the threatened Cape Denison colony? What should be done to help the penguins survive?

[Image via Shutterstock]