A volcanic eruption on a sub-Antarctic island is threatening one of the world's largest penguin colonies.
According to a press release issued by the British Antarctic Survey, "Zavodovski Island is a small island in the South Sandwich archipelago and its volcano Mt Curry has been erupting since March 2016. The island is home to over one million chinstrap penguins — the largest colony for this species in the world."
The team became aware of a recent earthquake in the area during remapping of the volcanic islands.
The release further stated, "Following the earthquake, fishing vessels in the area...captured photos of the Zavodovski Island eruption. They show the main volcanic vent is on the western side of the island, but the prevailing wind is blowing the smoke and ash to the east, and depositing much of it on the lower slopes of the volcano. These are home to the chinstraps, closely packed in great numbers. In addition there are around 180,000 macaroni penguins."
Images taken by satellite have revealed that up to half of the island is covered in ash.
Dr. Peter Fretwell, a Geographer with the British Antarctic Survey, noted, "We don't know what impact the ash will have on the penguins. If it has been heavy and widespread it may have a serious effect on the population. It's impossible to say but two scientific expeditions are scheduled to visit the region from later this year and will try to assess the impact of the eruption."
RELATED: Penguins doing penguin things
A Magellanic penguin arrives to shore at El Pedral penguin colony near Punta Ninfas, some 75 Km east of Puerto Madryn in the Patagonian province of Chubut, Argentina on October 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 19, 2015 shows a colony of Brunnich Guillemot seabirds in the Spitbergen province of the Svalbard archipelago, in the Arctic Ocean. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
In a picture taken through a window an African penguin eats a fish at Zoom Torino, a zoological park in Cumiana near Turin, on April 22, 2015. Zoom Torino is a new immersive zoological park, where animals can be seen without bars or cages, only natural barriers ensure the visit. AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)
A Magellanic penguin is seen at El Pedral penguin colony near Punta Ninfas, some 75 Km east of Puerto Madryn in the Patagonian province of Chubut, Argentina on October 1, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
A couple o Magellan penguins guard their nest on a shore of Caleta Valdes, some 70 Km west of Puerto Piramides in Peninsula Valdes, Patagonian province of Chubut, Argentina on September 29, 2015. The Valdes Peninsula, an important nature reserve, is in the World Heritage list of the UNESCO since 1999. AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
A zookeeper poses for pictures as she counts penguins during a photocall at London Zoo on August 26, 2015, to promote the zoo's annual weigh-in event. With more than 17,000 animals to weigh, the exercise is carried out on a regular basis by zookeepers as a way of keeping track of every animals health and wellbeing. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)