Treasured island

What is it about penguins that makes people laugh, cry, go weak at the knees and brave crossing the roughest sea in the world to stand in a freezer just to be near them? Everything. They’re funny, loyal, curious, brave and caring. But they’re also much more. Penguins are the marine sentinels of the south.

“By observing the population of penguins, it tells us what’s happening in the ocean,” says Catie Fooley, a young research scientist with Oceanites, a non-profit organisation committed to studying the Antarctic region. “Penguins spend time on land with their chicks so they’re easy to spot.” So how do dedicated researchers like Fooley work out how many penguins there are? They count them.

We’re standing overlooking Fooley’s next mathematical challenge. Speaking above the cacophony of humming, honking, whistling, whirring and squawking is impossible and the stench of “eau de guano” fills the still air like day’s end in a fish market. No one complains. It’s what we’ve come for. My eyes stretch to the ice-tipped mountains framing rolling verdant hills tumbling to the sea. Winding through the tussock grass is a ribbon of black and white, accented with mini sunbursts of gold. It looks

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