Anyone who’s being watching Frozen Planet over the last few weeks will know what amazing creatures penguins are – and if you haven’t been watching it, shame on you! I suggest that you log onto BBC iPlayer immediately and catch up because it’s amazing. Or if you’re American or don’t have access to BBC iPlayer, or are just too stubborn to take my advice, then at least watch this criminal penguin clip which has got to be one of the best things captured on camera in ages.
Anyway, as I said they’re amazing creatures… which is the reason why I trekked all the way to Phillips Island, Melbourne in god-awful, torrential rain just to see the tiny fairy penguins.
Like I mentioned, the one day I choose to do an activity that involved standing outside next to the sea for hours, just so happens to be the only day that it was blisteringly cold and pouring with rain. I’m not just talking about normal rain, I mean lashing it down, to the point where my underwear was so wet that I had those two embarrassing wet circles for hours after my top had dried.
Obviously I had a bit of a cob on what with the fact it was raining and was immediately regretting announcing “I don’t need to wear a poncho I’ll be sound” and now had to stick with my ridiculous choice rather than admit I was wrong.
But I completely forgot about all of that as soon as I saw the little guys begin to emerge from the water. At first you can barely see them, just tiny little specks gathering on the rocks, waiting for their mates to climb out… but if you squint you can see their little heads turning, doing a mental head count to check their not missing any of their group.
Then, when they’re happy that no-one is missing… they start to run.
I can tell you right now; there is no way that penguins – especially unnaturally small penguins, are genetically designed for jogging. They were trying to jump over 2 foot rocks, slipping and sliding all over the place, running back to their mates to check they’re ok… it was both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.
Then, just before they start the catwalk in front of us they stop… and wait. All huddled together, squeaking at each other whilst glancing at us like they’re going, “fuck lad, they’re there again, what do we do?” “I know mate, just keep walking, whatever you do, don’t make eye contact…” *
Of course, this is all supposed to be a very civilised affair; there are benches all laid out for viewers to sit on… but what they forget is that no-one ever wants to sit on a cold wet bench, especially when there are the cutest birds on earth running past you. You’re also meant to be really quiet so not to scare the little critters… so what you’re left with instead, is a crowd of people silently scrabbling to get to the front of the wooden railings. Quietly tripping each other up, shoving a each other out of the way… it was like a silent-movie of underhand tactics.
Every time I dodged and weaved my way to the front of the masses, a middle aged steward would shuffle over, scruff me by my soaking wet hoodie and growl various threats of how he was planning to eject me from the area… that, I kid you not, actually included the phrase, “you’re a menace to this whole operation.”
To a point I (sort-of) obliged him, until I realised that I was the only one he was continuously harassing, and certainly the only one that was even pretending to move when he asked. So when he approached again I said (in one of those whispers that are actually louder than talking normalled would be,)
“LISTEN MATE… look at all of these people, why aren’t you moving them? I’ll MOVE when you stop being such a BULLY and get them to move as well.”
Then I did something I’m not proud of.
Have you ever acted like a complete dickhead, and even though you know you’re being a dickhead you can’t stop in fear of losing face. Well, I have – and this was one of those occasions…
Somehow I morphed my whole body into a position that I can only describe as the “STARFISH”, where I stretched out all my limbs against the fencing. And stayed there – like fucking spiderman in drag – for 30 minutes.
And the bastard didn’t move me. He didn’t move anyone! Which meant I had to stay in that uncomfortable position for the duration, hoping to god that he would physically eject me from the arena like he promised. I think he saw it as my punishment, leaving me there to suffer at my own hands.
Stupid, stubborn little English girl.
On the plus side, I did have the best view of the penguins. Which are seriously the best little birds I have ever seen!
Not only would they run back to their friends to check everything was ok… but they would stand there, just a few of them, squeaking away at each other before going their separate way to their houses, “…yeah so that’s what I told him! Anyway Vera, same time tomorrow, yeah? Have a good night *waddle waddle* “
This isn’t my video because I was too busy starfishing to take one (plus the fact that using video equipment is punishable by ejection from the area because it scares the penguins – which is totally fair enough… but a penalty I would have gladly accepted after 30 minutes sprawled on wet wooden fencing) but it shows live footage of them running so it’s worth a watch. And if you ever get a chance, please go and see these little birds, they’re unbelievable.
*Obviously they’re scousers.