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The Last Husky (1993)

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clip Emperor penguin rookery education content clip 1, 2

Original classification rating: G. This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

After being snowed in for five days the husky dog team pulls the sledge with two men aboard to observe the emperor penguin rookery in the Antarctic.

Curator’s notes

Beautiful footage of emperor penguins and their chicks.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

The clip shows a sled team with huskies setting out for an emperor penguin rookery. Two scientists are shown observing the rookery from a distance and then crawling along the snow to observe the adult birds with their chicks at close range. The intimate interaction of chicks and adult birds in the rookery, including an adult bird regurgitating food for its chick, is shown in the clip. The soundtrack includes the bird calls of the penguins.

Educational value points

  • The clip shows Australian scientists from Mawson Station in Antarctica observing emperor penguins as part of an Australian research project to gather information about these birds and to investigate how human activities may be affecting the lives of the penguins and their survival.
  • The research project has revealed significant fluctuations in the population of emperor penguins over the past 50 years. The findings indicate that the penguins are vulnerable to environmental changes caused by seasonal variations in the climate and the potential effects of global warming on the sea ice. Any environmental changes will affect the abundance and the distribution of the penguins’ food sources and the energy they must use to gather their prey.
  • Global warming causes an increase in melting of sea ice, which means a reduction in the krill populations, the penguins’ staple food source. More extensive sea ice increases the krill populations. However, this in turn extends the period that the female penguin is at sea, which then threatens the successful hatching of the eggs.
  • The emperor penguins shown in the clip are the largest penguin species, standing at 115 cm tall and weighing up to 40 kg. They can live for more than 40 years. Their diet is fish, squid and krill, a shrimp-like crustacean.
  • Emperor penguins have made remarkable adaptations to suit the inhospitable environment of Antarctica. Unlike any other penguin, they are capable of breeding in the Antarctic winter on the fast ice (frozen sea). This may be to allow chicks to grow to independence at a time when food is plentiful and predators are scarce. Only three emperor penguin colonies are situated on land. All other colonies are situated on the fast ice near the Antarctic continent.
  • The breeding cycle of the emperor penguin begins in autumn when the sea ice is thick enough to support a colony. The adult male spends up to nine weeks incubating the single egg that sits on his feet in a brood pouch. The male does not eat during this time, losing up to half his body weight and surviving on stored body fat. When the female returns, the male proceeds to the open sea to feed, his journey shortened by the melting of the ice in summer.
  • The clip includes close-up footage of a rookery with the young chicks being attended to by both parents. In spring the adult penguins are able to leave their chicks while they catch fish, which they later regurgitate to feed the young. The chicks, covered in a thick layer of light grey down, huddle together for warmth when their parents are away. At 4–6 months old the chicks acquire their adult feathers and take to the sea to fish for themselves.
  • The clip opens with scientists driving a sled team of huskies across the Antarctic ice towards the penguin rookery. The husky dogs have thick, double-layered coats that protect them against the extreme cold. They have provided reliable transport and loyal companionship for people travelling in Antarctica since 1954.
  • The role of the husky teams, such as those as seen in the clip, became subject to the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. This treaty banned all introduced species except humans from travelling to the Antarctic. As a result, the last huskies left Antarctica in 1993.
  • The footage shows the scientists photographing an emperor penguin colony at close range as part of their research into the penguin population at what may be one of the two known emperor penguin colonies situated relatively close to the Australian Antarctic base at Mawson Station.
  • The landscape of Antarctica depicted in the clip shows its beauty and its inhospitability. More than 99 per cent of Antarctica is covered in ice containing about 70 per cent of the world’s fresh water. This thick ice cover makes Antarctica the highest of all continents. In the summer months its total surface area is approximately twice the size of Australia and in winter it doubles in size due to the sea ice that forms around the coast.

This clip starts approximately 20 minutes into the documentary.

The clip shows a sled team with huskies setting out for an emperor penguin rookery. Two scientists are shown observing the rookery from a distance and then crawling along the snow to observe the adult birds with their chicks at close range. The intimate interaction of chicks and adult birds in the rookery, including an adult bird regurgitating food for its chick, is shown in the clip. The soundtrack includes the bird calls of the penguins.
Man On Tuesday the 6th, we eventually got out.

Narrator After five nights pinned down in the tents, the teams are finally able to move again. Now, the main purpose of the expedition can be achieved.

The team have reached the rookery.
Narrator There are only 30 emperor penguin rookeries in the world, and checking on them is vital to the preservation of this unique species. Al and Dave count the chicks and record the adults direction of movement, to find out where they’re feeding.

Emperors, who breed in winter, differ from all other penguins. The egg is actually incubated by the males. Then, in the spring, the chicks are nurtured by both parents until feathers replace their fluffy grey down.

By mid summer, the chicks will no longer be dependent on the adults.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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