Snow Hill Emperor Penguin Expedition

Snow Hill Emperor Penguin Expedition

Start date
1 October, 2023
End date
30 November, 2023

A BAS science team has returned from Snow Hill emperor penguin colony, where they have conducted survey work, collected guano samples for DNA analysis and deployed the first tracking tags on emperor penguins in the Weddell Sea.

The project, funded by BAS, WWF and Antarctic Research Trust, accessed the colony in mid- November, using the helicopters from the cruise ship Ultramarine and is one of the first science expeditions to the Snow Hill colony in the emperor breeding season.

During two hectic days at the colony the team, consisting of Peter Fretwell, Norman Ratcliffe and Hugo Guimaro, took vertical aerial photos using UAVs to try to calibrate synchronous VHR satellite imagery, placed 15 GPS Argo tags on adult birds and collected 40 guano samples to study the diets of the birds using DNA sampling.

The Snow Hill Island emperor colony is the most northerly breeding site and regularly gets temperature much warmer that most other sites. It may act as an analog of the pressures many other sites will face with a warming Antarctica.

The birds are tracked in near real-time using the Argos system, and their locations shown on the following map.

Click on a track to find out how far the bird has gone from the Snow Hill Island deployment location.


A flock of seagulls standing on a beach
Aerial view of emperor penguin sub-colony at Snow Hill, Antarctica. © Neil Ever Osborne / BAS


A blue gloved hand holding a small plastic sample bottle. The landscape behind is covered in snow and ice. There are lots of penguins
Hugo Rafael Rodrigues Guimiro, Ph.D. student from University of Coimbra, in the field with the British Antarctica Survey (BAS) team, conducts emperor penguin guano sampling to assess diet through DNA analysis. Snow Hill, Antarctica. © Neil Ever Osborne / BAS


A penguin in the snow. Four people are stood in the background watching
A released emperor penguin is pictured with a satellite transmitter while BAS scientists Norman Ratcliffe (at right) and Peter Fretwell (at left), make observations alongside Hugo Rafael Rodrigues Guimiro (at far left), a Ph.D. student from University of Coimbra, and Sea Ice Specialist Steffen Graupner (at far right). Snow Hill, Antarctica. © Neil Ever Osborne / BAS



Looking down snow covered landscape with lots of penguins
© Neil Ever Osborne / BAS


A diagram with pictures of Emperor penguins, satellites and drones.