I admit I have a thing for penguins . . .

. . . but then again, who doesn’t? Perhaps it’s the way they mimic us humans: walking upright, nuzzling their mates, or slapping each other on the back. Or else it’s the way they are different from us: surviving and thriving in the most inhospitable places on planet Earth.

Whatever the reason, watching penguins in the wild is far better than anything you’ll ever see on afternoon television. They are marvelous birds and so highly entertaining in real life that I keep finding ways to travel back to their cold and southern world.

Of all the species I’ve encountered in the world, king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) have been the most numerous, blanketing the beaches of the island of South Georgia (where I am currently and where I saw the very rare all-black king penguin), as well as other sub-Antarctic islands I have visited (e.g. Australia’s Macquarie Island).

Poised and brilliantly colored, king penguins are the second largest species in the world, smaller than more iconic emperor penguins (of Happy Feet fame). Although, for at least a century before Antarctic exploration, king penguins were thought to be the largest, hence their original nickname “king”.

We have projected our own human hierarchies onto these birds, as well as our human emotions, so that visiting the many penguin colonies of South Georgia naturally leads to deeper contemplation about human behavior. How are we the same as these birds? How are we different?

These are the questions I ask myself every time I am perched at the edge of a screaming colony of king penguins. Like humans, king penguins are comical and beautiful, but also tragic and severe, and like humans, king penguins can behave so lovingly and with such care, or act defensively and mean-spirited.

I have spent the last three days hunkered down with a collective total of nearly one million resident penguins on South Georgia. Honestly, they are beginning to feel like old friends, and on this voyage from one continent to another, I have developed an even stronger affection for this particular species.

And so I dedicate this post to the king penguins — perhaps “second” in size and popularity, but forever kingly just the same.

Comments

  1. Liiat
    March 15, 2012, 9:28 am

    Beautiful, love the dedication <3

  2. King Penguins - tDiscuss
    March 15, 2012, 10:21 am

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  3. maymn
    Austria
    March 19, 2012, 1:44 am

    incuh

  4. Natina Harris
    Durham, NC
    March 19, 2012, 3:24 am

    These photographs are just absolutely stunning!! I love penguins!! I think they are very beautiful & to have that innate natural ability to brave those harsh conditions is just amazing & mind blowing!! I think what I love the most about them is the male’s role in incubating the egg/chick!! I wished human male species had that ability! LOL. I really appreciate you, other photographer, videographers & scientists who also brave those conditions to bring these wonderful photos to us because we would never know much about these little birds!

  5. Bigmans
    March 20, 2012, 8:26 am

    I can totally relate! We visited the African penguin colony at Boulders Bay several times an each time we spend hours and hours just looking at them interact with eachother. And each time we have to drag ourselves away from th bay, convincing ourselves that we will be back…. Rather sooner than later.

  6. Mankepe
    South Africa
    March 20, 2012, 8:48 am

    I agree with you and this are my sentiments, in your words “but then again, who doesn’t? Perhaps it’s the way they mimic us humans: walking upright, nuzzling their mates, or slapping each other on the back. Or else it’s the way they are different from us: surviving and thriving in the most inhospitable places on planet Earth.

    Whatever the reason, watching penguins in the wild is far better than anything you’ll ever see on afternoon television. They are marvelous birds and so highly entertaining in real life that I keep finding ways to travel back to their cold and southern world.”

  7. Monica
    Missouri
    March 22, 2012, 9:25 pm

    Beautiful photos! I know how much you enjoyed this. What amazing sights you have seen, and shared. You have a wonderful way of making me feel like I’ve experienced them first hand. (minus the cold, of course!) Thanks Andrew!

  8. Tara
    Massachusetts
    March 29, 2012, 7:55 am

    Thanks for your gorgeous photos. Though I’m wondering. Do penguins mimic us? Or do we mimic penguins?

  9. Back to the Cape – Digital Nomad
    April 15, 2012, 5:10 pm

    [...] my brain is pulsating with a hundred thousand Technicolor memories of the past few weeks: a sea of penguins, the stormy ocean, one dead president, the snow-covered Rockies, and one airport after airport: [...]

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    April 18, 2012, 2:57 am

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  11. Febry
    GToVNwiUAm
    May 23, 2012, 10:17 am

    Awesome SK quote. I still have yet to read most of The Dark Tower series. For some rosaen, I can’t get into it as much as I’ve loved The Green Mile, Thinner, and some others.