The white penguin

I’ll be relating a few of my adventures over the next week as we sail home, but thought you might like to hear about my last day on station. Steve kindly picked me up at the bottom of the gangway at 7am and ran me into the station (the 2km walk is pretty slippery at that hour of the day) and I helped out in the kitchen for a while and then became part of a human chain at the store unpacking flour, tea and coffee (mmm, that smelt good as it went from container to pallet). Then smoko, and Karen offered to take me for a walk to Anchorage Island (you can’t go unaccompanied on walks). A few other people wanted to come too. It was a classic case of the Antarctic saying ‘Hurry up and wait’, as we gathered people, organised ourselves, picked up crampons and radios and some safety gear, stuffed my backpack with chocolate, got permission to be away from the ship, collected more people, turned our tags to show we were leaving the station, put all our outdoor clothes and shoes on, etc etc etc. Got 50 metres down the road and Karen was called back with an urgent task, so she found another person to take us instead and a few other people joined in and finally, an hour and a half after having the idea, about seven of us set off across the sea ice for Anchorage Island.

As often happens here, you look at a landmark and think it will be a 15 minute walk and 45 minutes later you’re still not there – it’s notoriously hard to judge distances as there is nothing known (such as trees) to give you a perspective. But we eventually arrived and clambered up the rocks to the top. There are three huge crosses and stone cairns, memorials to the three men that have died at Davis, so it is a reflective kind of place and a beautiful view across the bay.

Trudged back to station and by then I was tired and wolfed down two bowls of minestrone. When one of the guys suggested walking out to the other island within the station limits I was ready to give it a miss, but he suggested we get a lift to the ship and drop my bags there and then walk from the ship – and at the end of our walk we could board the ship and that would be it, ready for departure. Sounded like a good way to spend my last few hours. Steve shuttled us out again in the ute (he has become a mate over the course of the trip and we had a big hug goodbye) and four of us set out for Gardener Island, including Tui the photographer with all her gear for one last session with the Adelie penguins in the rookery.

Several times I’ve found that going on that one last walk when I thought I was too tired was often the best part of the day – and today was no exception. It was beautiful walking across the sea ice to the island in the soft afternoon light and stopping to sit down and interact with the Adelies, cheeky little creatures who are always curious and often come running up to check you out. And for a great ending to my time here, we found the white penguin that’s known to live in the colony. Well, actually, you’d probably call it the white and brown penguin. You know how penguins are always sparkling white in the photographs? They only look like that when they get out of the water. In the rookery they are usually covered with faeces and mud, like the little dude in the picture. Anyway, it was a thrill and felt like a very special ending to the time here.

The 300-point turn continues and I’m going to bed…

Love Jesse xxx


About Jesse Blackadder

Living at the easternmost tip of Australia on the caldera of an extinct volcano, Jesse Blackadder is a novelist, freelance writer and Doctor of Creative Arts. She is fascinated by landscapes, adventurous women and very cold places and has published three adult novels and three novels for children.
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1 Response to The white penguin

  1. Glen says:

    That little white Adele was there last year, cheered me up no end to see him back there again, all of us who know that little one hope he meets another that’s blind to black or white and gets on with raising some chicks.
    The stats on a white penguin like this one is something like 1/200000.

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