Antarctica, Part 3: Penguins, The Key to Happiness and World Peace?

“I believe penguins are the answer to world peace.” — Heidi Krajewsky, resident ornithologist (bird gal) aboard the MS Expedition to Antarctica

Gentoo Penguin Dance - Danco Island, Antarctica
Dancing Gentoo Penguins.

Our challenge to you: read this, watch the slideshow, check out the video — and maintain a straight face.

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.

Penguin Feeding Her Young - Antarctica
Penguin Feeding Young in Antarctica

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.

Penguin Rookery at Danco Island - Antarctica
Penguin Rookery on Danko Island in Antarctcia

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.

Antarctica Penguins Slideshow

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.

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G Adventures tours to Antarctica

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 to the left. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission. Thank you!

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Comments

  1. says

    I’ve been waiting for this post! Oh wow, you all got some fantastic pictures, however, I had no doubts they would be. So would you consider this a highlight of your trip so far? I love your post too, penguins can’t help but make you smile. I will bookmark and return. :)

  2. Kendell says

    Officially my new favorite Uncornered Market post! I love it (and have sent it to many friends). You two are my real life heros.

  3. says

    Beautifully written post with a deep connection with human love for penguin. There always was love in my heart for penguins but this post somehow reinforced it. I’d love to go and see them someday soon. Thanx for sharing it here with the world.

  4. says

    How about a coalition of penguins, pandas, and koalas? It’s a veritable UN of cute animals. Instant world peace!

    Great pictures!

  5. says

    Magical! I love it…not a person in the world could look at those photos and not smile…

    And those are definitely some amazing photos!

  6. says

    @Lori: How can one talk about Antarctica without mentioning penguins?! You know us well :) Antarctica was definitely a highlight of our trip. We’ve seen so much along our journey, but there is something really special and unique about the feeling in Antarctica.

    @Kendell: Great to hear from you and thanks for passing this post on to your friends. Penguins really are incredible, aren’t they?

    @Moign: It is really interesting how we empathize and relate to penguins in such a personal way. You should have seen all of the passengers on the boat talking with, imitating, and coming up with life stories of all the penguins.

    @Kyle: Love the coalition idea! One step closer to world peace!

    @Earl: Even though we had seen the penguins live and looked through these photos several times, we still break down laughing and bobbing back in forth in a penguin imitation when we watch this slideshow.

    @Rowena: That top photo is precious, isn’t it?!

  7. says

    Squeal!! Love this post and the video! I didn’t realize they were so chatty! Definitely made me grin. Great post, thanks for sharing!

  8. Zoe McAlear says

    I lost the challenge at the top before I had even read it….the first picture had me smiling right away.
    Great article and set of photos, it looks incredible. Glad you guys had such a great trip, looking forward to hearing stories in person!

  9. says

    Great pictures! Yeah don’t underestimate the pinguins, they really are incredible creatures! I had no idea before I watched ‘march of the penguins’. Before that all i knew was that they smelled a lot of rotten fish…

  10. says

    I love the penguin photos you took, they really tell stories. I envy you guys, my husband and I really desire to go to the Antarctica.

  11. says

    DEAR AUDREY AND NEIL
    CONGRATULATIONS AGAIN FOR YOUR FINE WRITING AND SUPERB PHOTOS,SIMPLY DELICIOUS…;I FOLLOW YOUR WEB SITE EVERY SINGLE WEEK!!
    I CONTACTED YOU SEVERAL MONTHS AGO ASKING ADVICE ON A OVERLAND TRIP ALLOVER CAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA.
    WELL.WE ARE FINALLY STARTING IT NEXT 6/APRIL DURING 5 MONTHS BY MOTORHOME FROM PORTUGAL TO ALMATY AND BACK: 22000KM!
    WE HAVE CREATED A SITE: http://www.estrelasnarotadaseda.com(WHICH MEANS
    STARS -ON THE-SILKROAD.
    WE WOULD BE VERY OBLIGED TO HAVE YOUR FRANK PROFESSIONAL OPINION ABOUT OUR SITE————-OF COURSE NOTHING COMPERATIVE TO YOURS!!!
    WE SHALL AMMEND WHATEVER YOU THINK ,IN ORDER TO IMPROVE ITS QUALITY. AWAITING THE FAVOUR OF YOUR ESTEEMED COMMENTS.
    BEST PERSONNAL REGARDS
    DAVID ESTRELA
    (DID YOU CONTACT OUR FRIENDS IN EL SALVADOR??)

  12. Jean Lo says

    Hi Audrey and Daniel,
    We were two of the lucky people who met you aboard the MS Expedition and shared this great experience Antarctica. Thank you once again for your very inspiring and warm lecture, we just started to check out your blog and are looking forward to see more!
    Keep up your great spirits, take care of each other, you both are such a nice couple, intelligent and mindful – and not to forget your superb photos!

    We just came back from our second cruise in Antarctica and are beginning to digest the experience, we can imagine how it must be for you two, there were so many great sceneries, wildlife and also the people that you meet on trips like this. It was a good time that we shared as a couple as well, there are impressions and adventures we discussed the whole time and it sort of glued us together even closer.

    Good luck on your journey (Africa is next?), we wish you all the best!
    Love,
    Jean and Johannes

  13. says

    Great post and gorgeous photos! I didn’t have a fast enough connection to watch the video, but when I find one, I will check it out. Penguins are one of my favorite animals to see in the wilds. We only have seen them in Peru and South Africa. Antarctica would be absolutely amazing. I love the shot with all of your gear in it. Awesome!

  14. says

    @Laura: We also didn’t realize how much noise penguins make before this trip. It just adds to the allure, right?!

    @Zoe: That first picture gets us every time as well! It’s so hard to keep a straight face looking at it. We look forward to sharing more stories in person with you this summer!

    @Sofia: Yes, penguins are incredible animals and yes, they do stink at times. What they have to go through to survive and procreate is really incredible!

    @David: That is fantastic that you are taking off on your journey through Central Asia! Congratulations! I’ll take a look at your site and send you an email with some feedback or ideas. No, we didn’t contact your friends in El Salvador since our visit there was quite short. Thank you for the offer, though!

    @Jean: How lovely to hear from you again! We were touched by your warm words about our journey and presentation. I hope you had a good trip home after the second Antarctica trip and are still remembering and absorbing all that you have seen and felt. Shared experiences with a loved one do bring you closer together and create a bond. We are still trying to put together projects for Africa, but hope to be there in August/September. We’ll let you know! Take care and enjoy a beautiful summer in northern Sweden!

    @Dave and Deb: I completely understand not having a strong enough connection to watch the video – that’s the situation we’re in now in Chilean Patagonia! The shot with all the gear is actually of a National Geographic photographer – our gear isn’t quite that sophisticated (or big) :)

  15. says

    @marta: We were very glad we decided to make the trip also. Surprisingly, it wasn’t particularly freezing. Because of the season (it was not the dead of winter, but instead the beginning of the Antarctic autumn), temperatures hovered between -5C/20F and 10C/50F. Also, we dressed very warmly, so as to make the cold temperatures the least of our worries — something we would very highly recommend on a visit to Antarctica.

  16. says

    I agree. These funny creatures may be the key to inner peace, world peace, and every other peace! That was great – thank you.

  17. says

    @Dave: You know, I just saw Happy Feet (or at least a significant part of it) for the first time. The scene where the whale eats the penguin…pretty accurate.

    @Gaea: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. Inner peace — now there’s a challenge :)

  18. says

    Incredible photos mate! I must admit a trip to Antarctica has been something I have wanted to do for a long time. I guess from the photo’s the wildlife in itself makes it all worth it!

    Aaron

  19. says

    @Aaron: Thank you! Certainly the wildlife is a critical dimension of the Antarctica experience, but I enjoyed the experience in its entirety. There was something about the place, its distance from everywhere else both physically and emotionally, and the history of the explorers who’d made their way there when ships like ours were only a dream. One could argue that the atmosphere of Antarctica alone makes it worth a visit:
    http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2010/03/honest-antarctica-gray-skies-blue-ice/

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