Picture of a water sky. In an overcast cloudy day sea ice is reflected white on the clouds - so the clouds appear light in color. In contrast the water is reflected as a dark color. This dark is the water sky. Taken in Antarctica.


emperor penguins, like other birds, have the capacity to fluff their feathers and insulate their bodies with a layer of air. but where most birds have rows of feathers with bare skin between them, emperors have a dense, uniform coat of feathers with tiny filaments at the base which allows them to release this layer of air as lubricating microbubbles. in doing so, the penguins are able to reduce their drag and the viscosity of the water, thus enabling them to swim faster. photos by paul nicklen (previously featured)


SCIENCE NEWS! There’s life way, way below Antarctica — chilling out in a subglacial lake. Just a few weeks ago, a team of scientists confirmed that half a mile beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, a bunch of tiny, single-celled organisms are alive and well… in a lake boasting sub-zero temperatures and no access to sunlight. 

The discovery is groundbreaking, leading some to wonder if there might also be life on a similar place — Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. 

John Priscu is one of the lead scientists behind the study. In a talk at TEDxBozeman, he explains what it’s like to be a scientist drilling though thousands of feet of ice while living in a tent in Antarctica. 

Watch the whole talk here»

Photos courtesy of NASA


Rotifers are tiny multicellular organisms found commonly in freshwater environments around the world. They are largely considered to be the smallest animals on Earth, composed of over 1,000 cells complete with a full digestive system and jaws but only reaching the size of a microscopic amoeba. They can be found in the most extreme environments, including the Mojave Desert where they enter dormancy when their habitats dry up. Scientists in Antarctica have recently discovered single cell organisms existing deep below ice sheets, but they’re looking even harden to see if more complex creatures like rotifers have been able to survive without sunlight in sub-zero temperatures for nearly a million years.

Image by Dr. Igor Siwanowicz, HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus.


photos of aldelie (2,5,7,8) and chinstrap (1,3,4,6) penguins by (click pic) tim laman, ralph lee hopkins, justin hoffman, michael poliza and maria stenzel.

both chinstrap and adele penguins rely on krill for food, but the krill population, which itself relies on phytoplankton found beneath icebergs, has decreased by 80 percent. as the antarctic ice continues to melt, the phytoplankton are prevented from accessing cold water nutrients found beneath the icebergs, which ends up putting populations of the penguins at risk.  

there’s now strong evidence to suggest a more than 50 percent drop in the abundance of chinstraps breeding since 1986, while the adelie population northeast of the ross sea has declined by 90 percent.

(side note: the bluer ice seen here is created as air bubbles trapped in the ice are sufficiently compressed over time from accumulated snow so that they no longer interfere with the passage of light. the structure of glacial ice, different from the ice you would normally see, strongly scatters light, which, as with all ice, is blue because water absorbs photons from the red end of the visible spectrum much better than the blue end.)