Technology & Science·Audio

New Antarctic penguin colony found from space, with help of poo clues

An Antarctic explorer describes his hunt for and discovery of a new colony of penguins after their massive trail of poo was spotted from space.
The newly-discovered 9,000-strong emperor penguin colony on Antarctica’s Princess Ragnhild Coast. (Alain Hubert/International Polar Foundation)

A new colony of 9,000 penguins has been discovered in eastern Antarctica after their massive trail of poo was viewed from space.

Alain Hubert, who led the expedition that found the colony, said the penguins had never seen humans before and weren't scared at all when he and two of his colleagues made initial contact in December.

"They just start to come around us, surrounding us, just looking at us," he told As It Happens Tuesday. "I was not sure I was still on Earth."

Hubert, founder of the International Polar Foundation, a group that communicates research about Antarctica, decided to hunt for the birds after satellite images from the British Antarctic Survey suggested there was a colony in the little-explored part of Antarctica close to Princess Elisabeth Station, which was built just four years ago.

After three hours of searching among the crevasses and ice shelves, the explorers spotted the birds in the distance. After two more hours of walking, they arrived, under the midnight sun of an Antarctic summer.