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12. Animals in the Landscape
By Gretchen Legler
Genre: Non-fiction
Year: 1997 Category: Student Examples

Writing Sample:

Emperor penguins are known for their curious nature. On a recent trip from McMurdo Station to Cape Royds, friends and I drove by a red flag planted in the ice. Flags are planted all over the ice near McMurdo, marking safe routes along the sea ice. This flag happened to be in the middle of almost nowhere, and it seemed as if the penguins had simply walked over from the ice edge to see what it was doing there. There were three of them, and they stood there at the flag, in the sun, looking as if they were waiting for a bus. Emperor penguinsEmperor penguins, which are found only in Antarctica, stand about three feet tall. But it isn't just their size that distinguishes them. They are the only animal (not counting protozoa and other microscopic marine creatures) to spend winters in Antarctica. The male emperors sit all winter, braving storms of the worst kind, with an egg balanced on their gray, leathery feet. The egg is insulated by a flap of fat and feathers. Emperors are also distinguished by their incredible coloring and their grace. They are mostly black and white, but have brilliant creamy yellow breasts, which turn deep yellow and gold at their throats. Even when they waddle from side to side, they are graceful. Even when they get down on their bellies and push themselves along with their feet and their "wings" (really much more like flippers) they are elegant. They leave intricate patterns in the snow when they glide on their bellies-a wide path where their feathery breasts have dragged in the snow, and beside that, soft snaky curls where they've pushed along with their wings. When we saw the emperors we stopped and got out of our spryte and walked to within a safe distance from them. The Antarctic Treaty prohibits anyone from harassing animals here. But the funny thing about emperors is that they will come to you. We sat down in the snow and waited and sure enough, within moments, two of the penguins were walking toward us. They came to within five feet, then stopped and began to talk. Emperors gesture with their heads and beaks-sometimes pointing their beaks straight up in the air and wagging their heads from side to side, other times bowing their heads in graceful curves so their beaks rest against their breasts. When they call out with their beaks up in the air it's called "trumpeting," and the sound is both comical and forlorn, like the sound of loons on a quiet lake.


What I've tried to do here is simply write about one animal that is unique to Antarctica and give a sense of some of the special characteristics of this animal. I wrote about how the penguins are curious, about their beautiful coloring, I included the sound that they make, and some of the ways they fit into the landscape (their tracks in the snow).

Writing Assignment:

Think of an animal that is special to your place. In Alaska you might think about mosquitoes, salmon, caribou, loons, grizzly bears. Take some time to think about what makes that animal so special to that particular place, then write about an interaction you've had with that animal.
Copyright 11.24.97

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