As they posed for the official ship photo, the crew of the icebreaker Polar Star had an unexpected addition to their group — an Adelie penguin, who scampered into frame and struck a pose.
The USCGC Polar Star and its crew of 140 are currently on a four-month mission to Antarctica as part of the annual operation to resupply McMurdo Station, the National Science Foundation's Antarctic research center.
The Polar Star is responsible for creating a channel through icy McMurdo Sound so that supply ships can reach the research station and deliver a year's worth of food, fuel, and everything else its residents need to survive the freezing winter months.
In order to reach the station, the Polar Star has to break through 12 miles of ice, which can be as thick as 10 feet in some places.
The curious penguins of McMurdo Sound have been making friends with Coast Guard icebreakers and their crews ever since the service's first mission to Antarctica in 1955–1956.
According to the Coast Guard's official website, when the USCGC Eastwind first arrived at McMurdo Sound in January 1956, the local colony of emperor penguins had no fear of their new neighbors, and, according to a member of the ship's crew, some even made friends with the humans:
"This one penguin kept hanging out with various Eastwind crewmembers while they were ashore. They originally painted a bow tie around his neck and button on his chest in grease (the penguin happily complied). The penguin then wiped the bow tie away by turning his head (hence the smudge in the picture). They then painted USCG on its stomach. He apparently loved it, and held a higher place in the penguin flock because of it."