"It was almost midnight when we succeeded in finding a way down to the ice through crevasses and approached the first of five groups of more than a thousand individuals, three quarters of which were chicks," said Hubert in the statement. "This was unforgettable moment!" (See photos of the penguin colony.)
The trio was part of a team supporting scientific research on the Derwael Ice Rise, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the colony. Here, researchers are looking to see how quickly ice from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is being lost to the sea due to warming-fueled melt.
Scientists estimate the population of emperor penguins of Antarctica is larger than once thought; satellite imagery has helped to find previously unknown colonies like this one, by pinpointing stains from penguin feces as well as spotting the penguins themselves.
ANALYSIS: Penguin Empire from Space Seen as Double the Size
Nevertheless, the fate of these and other penguins remains uncertain, and penguin numbers are likely to decline if the continent continues to warm. The Antarctic Peninsula, where emperor penguins are plentiful, is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, with air temperatures rising between 4 and 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.2 and 2.5 degrees Celsius) in the last 50 years.