I’ll bet some of you have noticed that I got a date out of order…you’re right. I had started the blog for Jan 5th on that evening, but was far too tired to finish it. I saved the draft thinking I’d finish in the morning. Then something else wonderful happened, and the next day something else caught my eye, and then some other little thing made for a good story, and before I knew it I was nearly 10 days late to publish. It’s writers like me that will be the death of print media for certain. I’m doing the best I can to crush web media before it takes off. I decided to finish what I had started, although the stream of consciousness had dried up considerably, there was still a trickle. When I got back into the story it seemed to finish itself.
Things are like that here at times. You get a good idea and can stick to it for hours because there is no perceivable change from day to night. Not unlike a casino, there are few windows around here, except in peoples offices and in the Galley. And when the clock tells you the workday is done, you find something else that draws your attention for hours and hours. I’m guessing that the lack of windows helps the Winter employees avoid the doldrums that come from not seeing the sun for weeks at a time. The reverse has proven to be the case for me as too much sunlight keeps we awake far longer than is healthy. I have trained myself to be in my dorm room by 9am where there are no windows, and I can hopefully wind down to sleep at a reasonable time. But not today. Today there were penguins.
Just after midnight, as I was heading back to work from lunch, I met my friend Ben, the techno Wizard who helped so much to get the photos on the blog. He showed me pictures he had taken out on the road to Pegasus Airport at almost 6pm yesterday. They were less than 30 feet away and just standing in the road, smiling and waving at the passersby. At least 5 of them were all together in the same shots. He had a dozen pix and I was jealous, believe me. But wrapped all around that jealous core was happiness for him. He was lit up like a Christmas tree! There is just something about those beautiful, playful little birds that makes every one here, from the crustiest old Mechanic to the “coolest” young pilot go OOH, Ahh and Wow! And the women behave like they are glued to the maternity room window.
Believe me. These birds only get close to McMurdo at the very end of the season. They are harbingers of the end of the work season and everyone, everyone is happy to see them or at least know that they are here. And they will stay with us until the work is done, or so I am told. They are fearless, and know that they are safe around humans so they’ll walk right up to you and peck at your shoe laces if you are patient enough to let it happen. My coworker Deven told me he saw a penguin walking all the way up from the shoreline into the streets of McM, two years back.
Ben then told me that he had just returned from Scott’s Hut were he could see them in the distance, but couldn’t get very clear photos. So after thanking Ben for sharing, and telling Deven what I had learned during break, we decided to load the cameras and go see for ourselves if they would still be close at 5:30am after our shift ended. The closest and most likely place for them to come ashore was out by Scott’s Hut, where you will remember, I froze my ‘noze’ off just last week. But today would be different. No bright sun to fool me, no strong wind to betray me. Just calm waters and the quiet that precedes McMurdo Base coming to life. And Deven the expert as a guide.
We could hear them in the distance and then one popped up on the ice about 50 yards away. And then there were two. And as we walked down to the waters edge to get a better look they dove back into the water and swam even closer to were we stood. And then one swam up to the shore between where we were standing and the path back up the hill. And once again I felt the awe and grandeur of these surroundings. I felt so happy just to stand on these rocks and experience this endless skyline and watch the clouds floating. To see the mountains in the distance, and hear the impossibly foreign warble of these comedians of the cold as they performed for an audience of two. And we laughed out loud and talked to the birds and we took picture after picture till they dove back into the water and were gone.
It was then that we saw the seal. Just a hint at first way off by the first row of ice where the penguins first appeared. That’s him on the lower right. And though it looks like a half submerged inner tube, that only proves my weakness as a cameraman. Deven got a good shot of the seal and it will only cost me a weeks pay to get a copy for you to see. 🙂
By the way, no penguins were hurt in the production of this blog. The seal was faster than me, but much too slow for my little buddies. With these photos in hand, I say; ” Jenny! I will be home as scheduled.”