When you tell people you are going to Antarctica, without fail the first thing they want to know about is whether you will see penguins. The second thing they want to know is whether you can bring one home with you. I knew the answer to the second question, but was hesitant about the first. Folks who have been down before have cautioned that I might not get to see any penguins since they only show up later in the season as the ice starts to break, and even if I did, they would probably be at a distance.
So when we heard a rumor near the end of the work day yesterday that an Emperor had been sighted near the road, I got excited that I might be able to take a picture out the window of the van of a speck out in the distant whiteness that I could post and say “Penguin!” just to prove I had seen one.
But Jon and Cynthia and I got much luckier than that. We spotted him off the road, and our shuttle driver pulled off and let us out. The penguin was scootching along on his belly, and he was headed right toward us! We were as close to an emperor penguin as we could possibly be without violating the rules of interfering with wildlife. He would scootch on his belly for a while (see video) and then stand up, look around, squawk, waddle on his feet a little while, and then go back to belly scootching. We were giggly and giddy the whole time, and for hours afterwards. There is such a thing as a penguin high.
My camera malfunctioned, of course, at the worst possible time, so I did not get many pictures or video. I’ll post what I did take, though, and check out other SPIDER people’s blogs for more. Everyone on the team got to see him as he made his way out to hang out at LDB!