Photos taken by ALE guests in Antarctica put a new spin on the old saying, “Take nothing but photos. Leave nothing but footprints”. They also show that footprints can be both intriguing and enduring.
Researchers from the University of New South Wales discovered fossilized footprints from Antarctica’s ancient past, while on an excursion at Union Glacier. The tracks (shown left and above) were made by trilobites, marine arthropods that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. Trace fossils such as these are called ichnofossils and there are three main types of trilobite trace fossils related to the behaviors of the trilobite in its habitat: resting, burrowing, and walking. These particular ichnofossils are Diplichnites, tracks made while walking or striding on the surface of the mud.
Further afield, ALE pilot Russ Hepburn photographed these unusual tracks while camped near an emperor penguin rookery during one of our Emperor Penguins Experiences. The tracks were made by an emperor penguin tobogganing on its belly. The penguin pushes with its feet and uses its wing-like flippers as paddles to propel itself forward over the snow.
An Inverted Impression
If you have been following the Subglacial Lake Ellsworth Project on Twitter, you may have seen their photograph of raised footprints. The snow under the footprint is compressed. When the wind blows away the less compact, surrounding snow, raised footprints remain.
More about ichnofossils
More about the Lake Ellsworth Project