I believe penguins are the answer to world peace.
– Heidi Krajewsky, resident ornithologist (bird gal) aboard the MS Expedition to Antarctica
Can you envision the world’s leaders meeting onstage at the United Nations with a group of penguins to kick off the next round of nuclear arms reduction talks? Or during a break at the next Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, running a few clips of Antarctic penguins chasing each other down a snow-covered slope?
Whereas Antarctica’s landscape stirs the blood, its penguins touch the heart.
Penguins generate excitement, too. They bob, they waddle. They appear like they are forever on the verge of tipping over. But they do walk upright. And it’s because of this (and perhaps their tipping over) that we identify with them. We find human connections in ways we just don’t with other birds.
There is a huge temptation to anthropomorphize penguins, from characterizing how they “toboggan” down snowfields on their bellies to comparing their appearance to someone wearing a tuxedo.
They tempt imitation. They draw laughter.
Watch Our Video on Antarctic Penguins
The life of a penguin is not all good fun though. Anyone who has watched the incredible film March of the Penguins knows this. During our visit, we witnessed both Adélie and Gentoo penguins molting. During this process, penguins shed their feathers in favor of a new coat. Because they must remain on land — and away from the their source of food, the sea — they are unable to eat. Penguins in various stages – some on the verge of a shiny new coat and others with bits of Mohawk-y feathers puffing out atop their bodies — tuck their heads in and bring their shoulders up to stand rigid against the cold and wind as they endure this stressful process.
Then there’s raising children. With this, humans can empathize. Although we missed the penguin chicks’ early days, we still caught a glimpse of a few that were shedding the last of their baby fuzz. Some of the more mature chicks even engaged in a feeding chase – running after their parents in the search of the good ol’ days of dependence and (regurgitated) food.
Many parents, eager for their children’s independence, were forced to show some tough love. They rejected their children’s overtures, thereby implying that their relatively new offspring were ready for adulthood and all that comes with it.
Any of this sounding familiar?
And amidst this circle of life, the reality of death: a land scattered with the carcasses of those not strong enough to survive, often being picked over by hungry sea birds.
How Many Penguins Are Enough?
Some readers were concerned that because our visit to Antarctica approached the end of the Antarctic summer, we would miss out on penguins. Not at all. We didn’t experience the epic King Penguin rookeries of South Georgia Island (tens if not hundreds of thousands of penguins at once), but we felt ourselves exceptionally fortunate: we saw several thousand penguins, and needed only a precious few to put us in our penguin happy place.
Our suggestion: enjoy our penguin photo essay, slideshow and video. Soak it up, let us know what you think. Then, bookmark the page. And the next time you are having a bad day, return to it and watch it.
Penguins may not make all your cares go away, but they will probably make you smile. And if penguins become the next big thing in happiness therapy, you can say you heard it here first.
Note: If you don’t have a high speed connection or you would like to read what the penguins are saying in these photos, view our Antarctica Penguins photo essay.
The Antarctica tour we took with G Adventures was paid for by us and went south of the Antarctic Circle. We highlight this feature as most tours to Antarctica do not go this far south. If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad above. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission. Thank you!
Article Series - A Journey to Antarctica
- Antarctica Update #1: The Drake Passage, From Killer Waves to Killer Whales
- Antarctica, Part 2: Honest Antarctica – Gray Skies, Blue Ice
- Antarctica, Part 3: Penguins, The Key to Happiness and World Peace?
- Antarctica, Part 4: An Audio Slideshow