Close Encounters … The Day I Was Courted By A Gentoo Penguin


The ‘Close Encounters’ theme currently running on Taraji Blue’s facebook page   (and shared here) is not about displaying our perfect and favourite photos – it’s about giving you glimpse into our travels, the things we have seen and the encounters we have had with people and Mother Nature. It’s about sharing a moment in time which changed our perspective on the world or humbled us to realise what a precious planet we inhabit.

This photo shared today is a prime example of this… it was taken in Danko Harbour, Antarctica on New Year’s Day 2007.  It’s by no means a great photo – but it captures a moment in time that is so, so precious to me. ……

We’d all celebrated a little but too much the night before and I was among the many who were feeling a little delicate the morning after. After a bouncy zodiac ride into the harbour (!!) some decided to sleep on the ‘beach’ whilst the rest of us set off to hike up the hill. I very quickly fell back, taking the opportunity to collapse in the cold snow and recover. Lying on my own in the warm sun and cold snow I closed my eyes for a moment. I was awoken by the pitter patter of penguin feet – a Gentoo penguin was starting the long walk up the hill toward me. I sat up very slowly and watched him struggle to walk up the slippery slope – He was on a definite course towards me and it must have taken him 15-20 minutes to reach me.

Upon arriving at my left hand side he proceeded to arch around me onto the flat, rock covered ledge upon which I had been propping myself. He then proceeded to collect stones and build a nest around me, proudly taking his time to pick the best stones and build them up. I daren’t move. I had seen similar behaviour on tv and knew that this was very symbolic – he was building a nest for me! I dared not breathe or move a muscle…all I could hear was the delicate pitter patter of his wet feet on the rocks and the ‘chink’ as he placed the stones by me. Every now and again the silence would be broken by a fellow passenger on the top of the hill who was sobbing with joy at this sight. She’d whisper loudly when she felt I could turn to see and not disturb the penguin and at this point I’d capture a glimpse of him and the nest.

I stayed with the penguin for over an hour until I had to return to the boat. I considered myself betrothed to the Gentoo Penguin at that point in time and had the largest smile across my face.  Upon returning to the ship I sought the expedition staff and shared the experience with them – they’d never heard anything like it. People shared their images of me and the penguin and we chattered into the night.

This was a close encounter of the best kind – truly once in a lifetime.

Additonal images from our trip to Antarctica are available in our Taraji Blue Antarctica photo gallery. 


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