I got fried today. Toasted, roasted and turned on a spit. Or at least my face
did. For a team of caucasians who haven’t seen the sun for six months, and,
when they have, have had every inch of flesh covered, I didn’t think we were
that pasty. Before today. Now, as I glance in the mirror on my way to the shower,
I see black hair (freshly dyed, it was faded orange yesterday) above a bright
red face outlining dazzling white panda eyes. From my chin down again, luminous
yellow-white. Another example of how few comparisons and benchmarks we have
here. There is no perspective.
I visited the penguins again today, thousands of them cooing and trilling,
so many that an entire ice cliff was grey with their shadow. The same feeling
though: I have no perspective. The first time I saw an Emperor I was over-awed
by its majesty. Now, as my friend so succinctly put it, visiting them is like
going to the park to feed the ducks. Very pleasant – but surely there’s
something not right?!
Another thing that made me laugh was the queue that formed behind our backpacks
while we walked among them. The abseil access point is perhaps 800m from the
main gaggle of penguins but there is always a small welcoming party that comes
to meet us. Usually a handful of adolescents sliding on their bellies. Once
we’ve reached the sea ice, they then often wander back to the crowd with us.
Last time, I remember just one stayed behind near the bottom of the rope. He
had obviously led the group out there and not realised that the rest had lost
interest and wandered back. Not to worrry; they picked him up again when they
escorted us back an hour or two later. [In this aspect I feel a strong affinity
with penguins,- my attention span is now so short and distraction by shiny things
so compelling that it has pretty much become part of my persona here. Hmm, I
must tell you about melt-tank someday.]
Anyway, you can see for yourself the line that had formed by the time we returned.
They really are sheep. Metaphorically… though I do like the idea of furry
penguins that bleat. The reason why they find Halley every year is because they
follow our 18km drum-line from the coast thinking each next drum might be a
relative. I believe this entirely now.