This is one of my favourite events
that I was privileged to see when I was in Antarctica. Gentoo penguins
- one of my favourite Antarctic animals being cute, comic and noble
all at the same time. The Gentoos - they're the ones with the orange
beaks - in these pictures are youngsters that have only just moulted
their juvenile down and have grown their adult plumage, though are the
penguin equivalent of young teenagers I guess.
It was a calm, mild day and nearly
all of the adult birds were off fishing in the favourable conditions
leaving the youngsters behind in their crèche. For some reason, though
these birds had never been in the sea before, they decided pretty much
altogether that it was time to learn to swim and so they all waddle
down to the shore-line where there is only a very gentle swell with
waves of just an inch or two high coming in - ideal conditions.
Unlike seals, penguins learn to swim
without their parents and these started off paddling in the shallows.
Some of the less adventurous types mis-timing the waves and suddenly
getting about two inches of water over their feet would turn round and
run back up the beach flippers outstretched in considerable horror.
Eventually, they did all end up standing around in the water like a
collection of matronly old aunts "taking the waters", they'd go in up
their waists (or where the waist would be if they had one) and look
quite pleased with themselves waving their flippers around a bit. Every
now and then, one of those pesky waves would come again and take them
by surprise, so it was jump up, flippers out and all rush out of the
sea again. All in all it was about half an hour before they were all
standing in the water and appeared to be anything like comfortable with
A few of them laid down in water about
2 or 3 inches deep and put their beak in the water, a bit like children
daring themselves to put their face in the water, then over the next
half an hour or so, they moved back out of the sea and went back to
wait for mum and dad to come with an after-dip snack.
Other penguin species are much more
forthright about the whole process, Adelies for instance, stand en-masse
at the waters edge and then jump into "the deep end" right from the
start. I thought the Gentoo approach was far more civilized and genteel.
Photo; © Paul Ward - Pentax equipment,
100mm lens, 35mm film, K64.
This picture may not be copied or
used in any manner without prior written permission.