We have a sneaking suspicion that Andrew Evans traveled the entire 10,000 miles by bus just to hang out with penguins.
You don’t have to remind me: I know how lucky I am. I am lucky to travel so much and I am luckiest of all for getting to see so many penguins. I have literally seen millions of penguins and let me tell you, I will never, ever, ever get sick of them, ever.
I might be able to watch a robin in my backyard for say, twenty or thirty seconds, but with penguins, I just can’t pull my eyes away. I am forever fascinated by their every move, feather and spacey cry.
I know am not alone. Throughout my journey, friends and followers all commented on how much they loved penguins, even if they had only seen them on TV. What’s even more amazing is how this one kind of bird that only lives in one very specific and difficult-to-access region of the world has such a huge commercial following. Google “penguin stuff” and the merchandise never ends, from penguin ice cube trays to pewter penguin toilet handles.
Someone needs to write (probably has already written) a PhD dissertation that deconstructs our human love affair with penguins. Obviously, there’s the whole anthropomorphic thing–that penguins look like “little gentleman” dressed in tuxedos (that’s what the early British explorers thought of the Adélie penguins they first saw.) Also, penguins stand and walk upright like people and they form huge crowds just like people do. They’re also really adorable birds with adorable little behaviors like the way they balance on the backs of their heels or use their beaks as a third limb to raise and lower themselves from the ground, or the way they point their heads upwards and shake all the water out of their feathers like a happy puppy.
Penguins also smell. In real life, visiting a penguin colony is like walking through the largest chicken coop in the world, except this time all the chickens eat regurgitated fish and have pale pink poop. Does that stop us loving them and wanting oh so bad to see them up close? Not at all. “Bring on the penguins!” we say, and our local zoos oblige us with itty-bitty Humboldt or Magellanic penguins. But no, the kids see through that trick. “That’s not like the one in Happy Feet,” they say, and they’re right.
Emperor penguins only live in Antarctica, and only beneath the Antarctic Circle. King penguins, on the other hand, look just like Emperor penguins (only a little smaller) and they live much farther north–like in South Georgia.
So if you are like me and suffer from acute penguin addiction, I can share this one remedy. It’s a place called the Salisbury Plain–a flat glacial beach on the east coast of South Georgia that is covered (as in practically paved) with living, breathing king penguins. At least one quarter of a million of them. How many is that? Well, if you gathered up all the penguins so that no penguin was more than three feet from another penguin–you would have about five football fields full of penguins and in about five minutes those football fields would be irreparably destroyed thanks to some pink poop.
Anyway, as you can see here, my penguin wish came true. Over and over again.
Andrew Evans traveled 10,000 miles–by bus–from Washington D.C. to Antarctica for National Geographic Traveler and has tweeted about his travels at @Bus2Antarctica. Follow the map of his journey, bookmark all of his blog posts, watch videos, and get the full story on the project here. Video by Andrew Evans.