A molting emperor penguin, Antarctica.
Emperor penguins are the largest of all penguins, standing up to 42 inches (115 centimeters) tall and weighing 84 pounds (38 kilograms). They are majestic birds, walking with stately purpose at speeds of around 5 mph (7.5 kmh). Emperors can dive as deep as 1,800 feet (550 meters) on a single breath of air, lasting up to 20 minutes. Emperor penguins are rarely found north of the Antarctic Circle.
Studies of emperor penguins are just one of the vast numbers of ongoing research projects that take place continually in Antarctica under the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), supported and managed by the National Science Foundation. For example, one study by researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography focused on emperor penguins' diving. Emperors routinely dive to depths of 500-meters. Scripps researchers examined the emperors pressure tolerance, management of oxygen stores, end-organ tolerance of diving hypoxemia/ischemia, and deep-dive foraging behavior. This information provided insight into human diving physiology and has medical applications for patients whose organs or tissues have been deprived of oxygen due to heart attack, stroke, transplant, etc.
Other Antarctic study areas are aeronomy and astrophysics, biology and medicine, geology and geophysics, glaciology, and ocean and climate systems. Outreach such as the Antarctic Artists and Writers program and education programs are also supported. To learn more, visit the USAP website. (Date of Image: Jan. 3, 2007)