“The Penguin Counters” follows a group of field biologists who travel to the frigid far South to estimate the animals’ numbers and to gauge the damage that climate change is causing them. The researchers are led by Ron Naveen, a scientist who has made trips to the area for decades.
“Penguins are my passion!” Mr. Naveen says. “Do I live for this? Yeah, absolutely! It’s what I live and breathe and think and do all the time.” He’s contagiously cheery, and most of his sentences seem to end with an exclamation point or a sense of wonder. Even amid brutal conditions, he’s an intrepid and encouraging guide.
Listening to Mr. Naveen, though, is secondary to watching the views. Almost every shot of wildlife, distant mountains and violent seas is magnificent. Yet Peter Getzels, Harriet Gordon and Erik Osterholm, who filmed the scenes (Mr. Getzels and Ms. Gordon also directed), don’t romanticize the region, delivering footage that’s a bit scary as well as awe-inspiring. Old photographs and a short digression into explorations by Ernest Shackleton and Frank Wild are wonderful.
Despite some distressing speculation about our warming planet, “The Penguin Counters” stays hopeful throughout its running time of just over an hour. Much of that is attributable to Mr. Naveen, who remains upbeat, no matter the weather. After seeing that icy land, you’ll probably never want to take his job. But that’s O.K. He’s more than happy to keep it.
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