Whether you are unfamiliar with the series or it’s been over a decade since you last saw it, "March of Penguins" was a nature documentary that became a phenomenon and significantly impacted Americans when it came out back in 2005. "March of Penguins" follows the emperor penguins in Antarctica and their yearly journey beginning in March as they leave the ocean to walk inland to breed and raise their baby chicks.
“He will travel a great distance, and though he is a bird, he won’t fly. Though he lives in the sea, he won’t swim. Mostly, he will walk, But he won’t walk alone.” (March of the Penguins)
Over a decade later, director Luc Jacquet released "March of the Penguins 2: The Call" on March 23, 2018. In "March of the Penguins 2," Jacquet revisits the emperor penguins’ classic tale of love and dedication that so many Americans have identified with.
So in preparation for watching "March of the Penguins 2," here is a recap of facts and the general story in "March of the Penguins."
1. Emperor penguins are the largest of the 18 different kinds of penguins, measuring on average 115cm (about 45 inches) tall.
2. Emperor penguins can hold their breath for more than 15 minutes and dive up to 1,700 feet deep in the water.
3. Emperor penguins are monogamous for that breeding season, but by the next year all bets are off.
4. There are fewer males than females, so sometimes the female penguins fight over the available males. Catfight!
5. After their coupling, both the male and female penguins work together to keep the egg safe and warm. They take turns carefully balancing the egg on their feet and covering it with their ‘brood pouch’ (feathered skin). The egg cannot be exposed for more than a few seconds or the parents risk it cracking in the cold of the Antarctic!
6. Both the male and female penguins take turns making long treks back to the sea to get food for themselves and the future baby chick. By the time the female makes her trek to the sea, she is literally starving after having lost ⅓ of her body weight producing the egg. When the male finally makes his trek to the sea, he has gone 4 months without food and must walk about 70 miles to get to the ocean to even find food.
7. While the female is away, the male stays with the egg through the coldest part of the winter. With temperatures in Antarctica getting as low as -60 degrees C, the penguins huddle together for warmth, taking turns being on the outside and inside of the huddle.
8. While the females are away, the baby chicks hatch. Despite not having eaten, the male regurgitates a milky substance for the hungry chick to sustain them until their mother returns with the baby’s first meal.
9. If the female never returns to her partner, then the male is forced to abandon his baby and return back to the sea to find food or risk dying of starvation.
10. “To find each other in the enormous crowd, the penguins must rely on sound, not sight.” The penguins recognize their partner’s call and will use that to find each other. Before the father penguin leaves to find food, he and the chick sing back and forth to ensure they know each other’s call.
11. Upon reuniting, the female penguin gets to see her baby chick for the first time and then babysits the chick as the male finally goes to get food.
12. The penguins will seem to grieve the loss of their egg or chick by crying aloud. In their grief, some mothers will even try to steal a chick away from another mother. But the huddle will not allow it and will fight off the grieving mother and then return the chick to its real mother.
13. Eventually, the mothers leave again to go find food, leaving the baby chicks behind to huddle together in groups called ‘crèches‘.
14. After 9 months, the ice is melting with summer and the chicks are almost fully grown. The parents and chick all split up as they return to the sea, likely to never see each other again.
15. At the age of 5, the chicks will have fully matured and will also begin the march themselves as they prepare to find a partner and have their own chicks.
I hope you have learned more about emperor penguins, and that you will go watch "March of the Penguins 2" (and "March of the Penguins" if you haven’t seen it yet). If this hasn’t sold you, just remember that Morgan Freeman narrates both!