1. OVERVIEW: Antarctica’s most popular tourist destination is a unique British post office located in the heart of the Antarctic Peninsula at Port Lockroy, about 700 miles south of Argentina and Chile. Enthusiastic cruise ship passengers from around the world come ashore throughout the Antarctic summer to see the colony of 3,000 gentoo penguins that takes up residence each year alongside Port Lockroy’s other summer inhabitants – the post office staff.
Penguin Post Office follows the daily lives of the gentoos as they find their mates, build their nests and raise their young. Also featured are interviews with members of the small group of volunteers from the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust who run the remote British outpost. Hearty enthusiasts themselves, they ready the post office, gift shop and on-site museum to welcome the thousands of visitors who will arrive over the course of the four-month-long tourist season.
Each November, the penguins return from an intensive spell of deep sea fishing to their breeding grounds at the post office, sometimes trekking nearly two miles across sea ice and snow to get there when the weather is especially bad. Their human neighbors must do the same. As the volunteers prepare for the tourists, the penguins are busy locating life-long partners and building nests made of small stones piled one on top of the other to create good drainage from snow and rain. Squabbles often break out in the colony as stones are pilfered from neighbors and unattended nests are appropriated. Meanwhile, mating begins and clutches of two eggs are laid, which usually hatch in two months. The parents share incubation duties, one always staying on the nest, keeping the eggs warm and protected from predators while the other is away fishing.
Still, despite best efforts, some eggs are always lost to the repeated aerial assaults of skuas, foraging for food to support families of their own.
At the height of summer, Port Lockroy averages two ship visits a day. Tourists happily take shot after shot of the dramatic scenery and of the gentoo colony. The penguins always appear happy to pose for photographs, provided that tourists and their cameras get no closer than 15 feet, which seems to be their limit for paparazzi. Then it’s on to the museum dedicated to Port Lockroy’s unique history as a British research center, and to the gift shop for penguin-themed mementoes, gifts and postcards to send to friends and family, and sometimes to themselves.
At the end of December, the penguin chicks hatch and immediately call to be fed. They need to grow fast to survive the cold months ahead. As the chicks get older, instead of being fed on demand, they will be made to chase their parents for food, encouraging competition. The strongest and most determined is fed first and the chase builds their strength to prepare them for the time when they will need to fend for themselves. Some chicks succumb due to lack of food, predator attacks, and even attacks by other penguins for straying into their territory. But the majority will learn how to swim and feed on their own as winter arrives. Then, after the Penguin Post Office has closed for the season and the tourists and volunteers have left for home, the fully grown chicks will join their parents on regular long distance fishing trips, where finally they’ll become masters of their Antarctic home.
2. GENTOO PENGUINS: With flamboyant red-orange beaks, white-feather caps, and peach-colored feet, gentoo penguins stand out against their drab, rock-strewn Antarctic habitat.
These charismatic waddlers, who populate the Antarctic Peninsula and numerous islands around the frozen continent, are the penguin world’s third largest members, reaching a height of 30 inches (76 centimeters) and a weight of 12 pounds (5.5 kilograms).
Gentoos are partial to ice-free areas, including coastal plains, sheltered valleys, and cliffs. They gather in colonies of breeding pairs that can number from a few dozen to many thousands.
Gentoo parents, which often form long-lasting bonds, are highly nurturing. At breeding time, both parents will work to build a circular nest of stones, grass, moss, and feathers. The mother then deposits two spherical, white eggs, which both parents take turns incubating for more than a month. Hatchlings remain in the nest for up to a month, and the parents alternate foraging and brooding duties.
Like all penguins, gentoos are awkward on land. But they’re pure grace underwater. They have streamlined bodies and strong, paddle-shaped flippers that propel them up to 22 miles an hour (36 kilometers an hour), faster than any other diving bird.
Adults spend the entire day hunting, usually close to shore, but occasionally ranging as far as 16 miles (26 kilometers) out. When pursuing prey, which includes fish, squid, and krill, they can remain below for up to seven minutes and dive as deep as 655 feet (200 meters).
Gentoo penguins are a favored menu item of the leopard seals, sea lions, and orcas that patrol the waters around their colonies. On land, adults have no natural predators other than humans, who harvest them for their oil and skin. Gentoo eggs and chicks, however, are vulnerable to birds of prey, like skuas and caracaras.
Gentoo numbers are increasing on the Antarctic Peninsula but have plummeted in some of their island enclaves, possibly due to local pollution or disrupted fisheries. They are protected by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and received near threatened status on the IUCN Red List in 2007. (c) Wikipedia
3. PORT LOCKROY: Port Lockroy is a natural harbor on the north-western shore of Wiencke Island in Palmer Archipelago of the British Antarctic Territory.
It was discovered in 1904 and named after Edouard Lockroy, a French politician and Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies, who assisted Jean-Baptiste Charcot in obtaining government support for his French Antarctic Expedition. The harbor was used for whaling between 1911 and 1931. During World War II the British military Operation Tabarin established the Port Lockroy base (Station A) on tiny Goudier Island in the bay, which continued to operate as a British research station until 1962.
In 1996 the Port Lockroy base was renovated and is now a museum and post office operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust.
It is one of the most popular tourist destinations for cruise-ship passengers in Antarctica. Proceeds from the small souvenir shop fund the upkeep of the site and other historic sites and monuments in Antarctica. The Trust collects data for the British Antarctic Survey to observe the effect of tourism on penguins. Half the island is open to tourists, while the other half is reserved for penguins. A staff of four typically process 70,000 pieces of mail sent by 18,000 visitors that arrive during the five month Antarctic cruise season.
The historic importance of the site relates to both its establishment as an Operation Tabarin base in 1944, and for its pioneering scientific research work, including the first measurements of the ionosphere, and the first recording of an atmospheric whistler, from Antarctica. It was also a key monitoring site during the International Geophysical Year (1957). The site has been designated a Historic Site or Monument (HSM 61), following a proposal by the United Kingdom to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.
4. TOO MUCH INFORMATION??? Why Many Birds Don’t Have Penises
Males of species that practice internal fertilization generally use phalluses to insert gametes into females’ reproductive tracts. But 97 percent of bird species have lost the ability to grow a penile structure capable of penetration over the course of evolution.  They mate instead by rubbing together small openings called cloacae , in a maneuver called a cloacal kiss. Reported in a study published yesterday (June 6) in Current Biology, researchers have identified a gene responsible for repressing the development of phalluses in bird species.
The authors began their studies by comparing development in chickens and quails, which lack substantial phalluses, to development in ducks and geese, which mate through penetration. They found that chickens and quails grow a small nubbin called a genital tubercle during development, just like birds with phalluses do. But then chicken and quail tubercles regress until they disappear entirely, while geese and ducks grow long, curled phalluses.
Martin Cohn, a developmental biologist at the University of Florida and an author of the study, told Nature that his team expected to find that birds lacking a phallus were missing important genes that stimulated phallus growth. Instead, after comparing the phallus-less birds to the well-endowed species, his team found that birds without phalluses had all the genes necessary for phallus growth but were expressing a gene call Bmp4 that caused programmed cell death of phallus cells during development.
When the researchers blocked Bmp4 in roosters’ genital tubercles, the tubercles did not recede. And implanting beads that released Bmp4 into duck genital tubercles resulted in impaired phallus growth.
The finding could help explain why so many species of birds lost their phalluses over the course of evolution. Bmp4 plays a key role in the evolution of several important traits during bird development, including beaks, feathers, and toothlessness. It’s possible that birds lost their phalluses as a side effect of evolving another trait.
Another theory is that sexual selection helped drive the loss of the phallus. Female birds may mate more willingly with males without phalluses, since they are less capable of unwanted advances and thus give female birds more choice in which males father their young.
 The “lucky” 3 percent include ducks, geese, swans, emus, and ostriches; they all have penises—and in the case of geese, rather impressive ones. Dr. Thierfelder
 In animal anatomy, a cloaca is the posterior orifice that serves as the only opening for the intestinal, reproductive, and urinary tracts of certain animals, opening at the vent. All amphibians, birds (save 3 percent), reptiles, and a few mammals (monotremes like the platypus, tenrecs, golden moles, and marsupial moles) have this orifice. Wikipedia