Who knows why we find penguins so endearing? Maybe it’s because they walk upright like we do. Or because their waddling walk is so klutzishly cute. Or because their faces seem so expressive. But whatever the reason, they are adorable, and I duly spent much of our first afternoon ashore laughing at their penguinny antics.
The penguins here have no fear of these strange, red-clad creatures in their midst. We are supposed to keep a distance of at least 15 feet from any Antarctic wildlife, but it’s easier said than done when the curious younger birds shamble right up to you and start pecking gently at your kneecaps.
We haven’t yet seen them in their most photogenic environment, on the ice. Hannah Point on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands has a little bit of snow and ice, but it’s mostly mud, rock, and penguin excrement. It smelled like a zoo – pretty pungent. You wouldn’t want to be near a penguin when its tail goes up and it emits a two-foot long projectile of poop. Quite remarkable.
We were lucky enough to see macaroni penguins as well as the more common chinstraps and gentoos. There was also a colony of sealions. They are shedding their pelts at the moment, so to keep warm they all lie on top of each other in a heap of excreting, belching, argumentative blubber. Very attractive.
Now I am back in my comfortable, warm cabin on the National Geographic Explorer. My boots, scrubbed and disinfected are down in the mud room, three decks below. My waterproof trousers and jacket have been hosed down. And yet I could swear I can still smell penguin poo. Where is that smell coming from?!
The bodily functions of birds seem to be a recurring theme in my blogs – sorry about that. At least (unless Australia’s Leeuwin Current has its wicked way) it’s highly unlikely I’ll get any penguins on board during the Indian Ocean crossing, now just 2 months away. Penguin poop is possibly even stinkier than booby poop so, endearing as they are, no penguins on board!
Despite June’s best efforts, progress in Australia has been slowed by the Australia Day celebrations. But the deposit cheque has now been sent so the renovations on the boat can proceed. The standard Australian colour chart does not having anything resembling the right shade of purple, so I’m hoping we can get a custom colour mix. “Wisteria” or “Jacaranda” just won’t do. I’m going for Cadbury’s Dairy Milk purple.
At last I’m managing to get some consistent training in. This morning I was in the gym around 5.15 to beat the rush. An hour on the cross-trainer practically flew by, as I watched the petrels, terns and albatrosses swooping around in the wake of the ship and listened to some great rocking music on my iPhone. And hung onto the handles for dear life.
Too bad I narrowly missed being on the same trip as my friend Margot Gerritsen of the Smart Energy Show. She was on board a couple of weeks ago.
I do my first presentation tomorrow. I am quite looking forward to it, although slightly daunted by the pressure of trying to live up to my onboard job title of “Global Luminary” (and names like these will be a tough act to follow). Thanks for the Facebook suggestions on how I might do so!