Several years ago my husband and I took a cruise to Antarctica. This was not a gown and tux cruise. The ship was a converted scientific research vessel and accommodations were pretty basic.
The highlight of the trip for me (after surviving sailing the Drake Passage) was sitting up to my waist in the Antarctic summer snow watching penguins go about their daily lives.
Before disembarking to visit our first penguin rookery we were lectured on the rules. The rules were serious. The rules were not to be broken.
- Do not approach the penguins.
- Do not go within 20 feet of the penguins.
- Do not make noise.
- Respect the penguins.
- Play nice.
Our nostrils told us when we were close to a penguin rookery. The pink guano trails leading up and down the hillsides confirmed we had arrived. Geared up in our waterproof pants and boots we headed off for the sight of a lifetime. Yes, who would think plodding through thigh-high snow accompanied by the distinct smell of guano to sit alone for 60 minutes and watch a parade of little Charlie Chaplins could be such a thrill. Watching and thinking.
Penguins have never learned to fear man. Except for scientific observation stations they are unfamiliar with man. They have no reason to be afraid. Watching and thinking.
- The penguins knew we were there but did not bother with us.
- We left them alone and they left us alone.
- They recognized we meant them no harm. If we sat quietly for a long time they would walk comfortably close to us.
- The penguins kept to the same, guano stained tails. They did not dirty the entire mountainside.
- When they fell down (they’re a little awkward on land) they got back up, wiped themselves off, and kept going.
What people can learn from penguins:
- Mutual respect. That’s what we practiced with the penguins.
- They were determined and respected their own environment.
- When you fall down (especially in your own mess), pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and waddle on.
Couldn’t the rest of the world learn a lot?