"" Writer's Wanderings: Penguins and Penguins, Oh my!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Penguins and Penguins, Oh my!

Penguins and penguins and penguins. And then more penguins. Our trip to Antarctica was filled with them. It’s summer in the southern hemisphere and the penguins have migrated to their breeding spots. If you have seen March of the Penguins, you sort of have the picture. We were not as far south as the Emperor penguins so the conditions were not severe.

Thousands of penguins (we saw mostly Gentoo and Chinstrap and then Magellan in Argentina) cover the small islands and outcroppings of the Antarctic Peninsula where the ice has melted. During the winter, Antarctica is twice its normal size because of the ice that forms around it in the sea and the penguins live out in the open sea. When the ice breaks up and begins to melt, the birds return to their rookeries, find mates, and do what comes naturally to perpetuate the species.

At one of the lectures aboard our ship, the expedition team leader had given a talk about what we would be seeing. His specialty was something other than birds and penguins and he poked fun at the other team member who was to talk about the different kinds of penguins on the continent. The leader showed a slide with a shot of two penguins, one facing the camera, the other with its back to us. “There are really only two kinds of penguins,” he quipped. “Black ones and white ones.”

At each rookery landing, it was hard to stop taking pictures. There were too many good shots and we wanted to make sure we got them all. Thank goodness for digital—we took over 700 pictures plus video.

This week Bob put most of the pictures on a CD so we could begin to share them with others. He didn’t take a lot of time to edit so the slide show is almost an hour long—only for the stout of heart and those, like family, who have to watch. Somewhere in the midst of all his work, he sat back and said, “You know, that expedition leader was right about penguins.” He flipped through a few pictures. “There really are only two kinds.”

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