The Penguin People of Antarctica
Do You Love Penguins?
Are you fascinated by the penguins of the Antarctic Peninsula -- gentoos, adelaides and chinstraps? You will find some factual information here, plus photos. For a bit of whimsey, you can read about the legend of the penguin people, look at some pictures and learn some fun facts about our favorite bird.
In late November of 2004, I celebrated a landmark birthday. To celebrate, I visited Antarctica and mingled with penguins!
There's a lot to love about Antarctica, but for me, the penguins are Number One on the list. I travelled with Journeys International, an American adventure tour company.
We set sail from Ushuaia in Argentina, sailed along the Beagle Channel where Charles Darwin worked and studied, crossed the wild and wonderful Drake Passage then meandered up and down the Antarctica Peninsula. We went ashore seven times in little rubber zodiacs.
The penguin population consisted of gentoos, adelaides and chinstraps. These guys are not the big Emperor Penguins that you hear so much about. The Emperor's are located elsewhere in Antarctica.
I was also able to spend a few days in Ushuaia, where I visited the lovely Tierra del Fuego, surely one of Patagonia's loveliest of parks.
Unless otherwise stated, all photo credits are to June Campbell.
Poll: What's Your Penguin Experience?
What experience do you have with penguins?
Penguin PicturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Do you know why penguins have red bellies in some of the pictures?
Its because they scoot along in the snow on their bellies. The snow is often covered with their guano. The guano is red because penguins eat krill.
Yes, they've been scooting in poop!
Going for a swim in the ocean cleans them up, but not for long!
The Legend of the Penguin People
As told to me by a fellow traveler
This is a story that was told me me by the Penguin People. This is what they said: Long years ago, when the creator fashioned the earth and sky, he gave the seas to the oceans, the land to the rocks and the air he gave to the winds. Once he had peopled the lands with animals and created the first plants and trees, he called the rocks and the winds and the seas to him and asked them if they wanted anything.
They paused for awhile and then asked him for a land of their own to which no animal or bird or fish might come without their permission. And the creator nodded and out of the rocks he fashioned a great continent which he placed at one end of the earth and around it he placed the sea like a girdle. And he told the winds that they could blow and protect the land and the seas could roar. And he placed great sheets of ice on the land as a coat.
For long years, no bird or beast came to the land. One day a bird, tired and bedraggled, foughts its way across the seas and came finally to the land of Antarctica. As he lay there on the brink of death, the wind whispered in his ear and asked him if he would be his messenger and pass messages from the land to the sea. The bird agreed but asked for changes, for otherwise, "I shall die on this land."
And so the wind gave him a thick coat, white on the front for the ice and black behind for the rocks. and he made his wings into flippers that he would fly through the sea when once he flew through the air. And this was the first penguin, a bird six feet in size, the father of all the penguins.
And still they pass from the land to the sea, taking messages between the winds and the rocks and the sea.
10 Things You Didn't Know About Penguins
The truth about penguins! Exposed!
1. Penguins Don't Give a Damn About You.
Penguins are neither friendly nor unfriendly. They will approach you not because they are curious or interested, but because they want to walk where you are standing. I saw penguins walk over people's feet without giving the human a glance.
2. Penguins are Noisy.
Penguins trumpet. They trumpet a lot. A penguin rookery is like what I imagine a rave must sound like.
3. Penguins Mate for the Season.
Like most humans, penguins choose a mate to help them reproduce and to raise the progeny to maturity. Also like some humans, unattached penguins are likely to hit on some other guy's woman if he thinks he can get away with it.
4. Mom and Dad Penguins Share the Parenting.
The male and female take turns sitting on the eggs while the other goes out to hunt food.
5. Penguins Practice Tough Love.
It's a harsh world out there and only the fittest survive. One breed of penguins typically lays two eggs and attempts to hatch two chicks. The parent penguins provide food for the chicks. The strongest chick typically gets dinner, leaving the weaker one to starve.
6. Penguins Stink.
They are birds and they don't fly. Like all birds, they leave droppings in their rookeries. What do you suppose a rookery smells like? I can tell you. Bad. Very bad.
7. Penguins Scoot Along on their Bellies.
Penguins can walk, but they have little short legs and they sort of waddle along slowly. The preferred means of transportation is to scoot along on their bellies in the slippery snow and ice. They can do this remarkably quickly. It almost looks as if they are swimming on land.
8. Penguins Fight Incessantly.
Peaceful? No way. Just in pictures. In real life, they fight incessantly. They fight over the best rocks. They try to steal one another's nests, and as I said before, they aren't shy about coming on to another one's lady friend. Its like the wild west out there.
9. Penguins Build Nests Out of Rocks
They spend all day looking for just the right rock to use for nest building. To the uninformed eye, one rock looks just like the next, but not to a penguin, apparently.
10. Penguins Bray Like Donkeys
The trumpeting sound I mentioned earlier resembles a braying donkey. Imagine hundreds of donkeys living together and braying. That is what its like in a penguin rookery.
© 2007 June Campbell