Manuel and the Hoochy Coochy

Trip Start Jun 18, 2005
Trip End Jan 01, 2006

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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day! We wake up at Hannah Point, known as the "jewel in the crown" of the Antarctic for its diversity of species and glorious scenery. Named for a sealing vessel - the Hannah - it is home to gentoo, macaroni, and chinstrap penguins.

The clouds have moved in today, the temperature has dropped to 33 F, and, to the delight of many who have never had a White Christmas, it is snowing! A light snow, faintly blowing across the deck, but snow, nonetheless.

For certain, I will enjoy the delights of Antarctica from the warmth of the Torghatten Salong today, sitting in a comfy chair with cameras occasionally recording the magnificent view.

And, writing. There is a contest! Manuel Marin has challenged us. Manual is part of our lecture/teaching staff, an Ornithologist from Chile (PhD from LSU!), a researcher of neotropical birds. So far, his lectures have included: Cormorants, the Untold Story; Penguins, Those from the other side; Penguins, The brush-tailed, Life and Death Part 1; Penguins, The brush-tailed, Life and Death Part 2. Manuel knows penguins. His lectures are entertaining: he passes around penguin parts for us to see (see the foot, they are very sharp!); he giggles as he shows us slides of penguins mating (ooo, Triple X, ladies cover your eyes!). "Pebbles are like diamonds," he explains, describing a penguin nest. "The male offers a pebble to a female during the courtship ritual. These are of utmost value! Better than chocolates! Better than Chanel #55! So good!"

Without the pebbles, there is little protection for the egg. A pile of pebbles makes for good drainage too. An egg left sitting on bare ground is more likely to freeze, or crack. "You think it is OK to take one pebble home?" Manuel asks us, looking stern, searching for a guilty face. "You think one pebble will not matter?" A pause. "Twenty-four thousand visitors came to Antarctica last year. If each person took ONE PEBBLE, what would happen to the beach! What would happen to the penguins! Do not take the pebbles! Do not pick up the feathers! If you promised this to your grandchild, instead, tell your grandchild how you helped a penguin to have life! You saved the egg!"

Manuel paced around the room. Did he make his point? Still, Manuel wants us to think more. To understand the penguin. So, now there is a contest. All around the ship he posted signs, in English and in German.

Prizes for drawing, sculpture, poem about birds!
Deadline December 28!

Pamela has been working on a cross-stitch penguin piece, sitting in her favorite chair each day near the cakes and tea, beside the "cleanest window," she reports. Doug sits near there too, his watercolors spread on the tabletop, brushing daily memories onto paper. I'm sure he'll have a beautiful bird to submit.

I can't sew, or paint. But I like to write. Especially humorous takeoffs on the Night Before Christmas, at least, at Christmas time. Hmmmm, I'm thinking, as I see the penguins walking, far away, along the beach. In my mind I see the little penguin who passed me by the day before, hobbling and hopping over the rocks, her tiny wings an afterthought by her creator? Penguins. They can swim, but they can't fly. What might a penguin wish for? I began to scribble, on a yellow pad...

'Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the ship,
Every creature was stirring,
Celebrating their trip!

But the penguins were nestled
All snug on their nests
Having spent the day hosting
The Nord-nor-gay as guest.

Adelie and gentoo
They welcomed our walk
Enduring the kameras
With barely a squawk.

On came Evie and Stevie
On came Lily and Luke
With a flap and a waddle
Then the Duchess, and Duke.

With pebbles like diamonds,
All piled in a stack
Each went for their lunch
And then each came back.

No dishes to wash,
No laundry to do,
The life of a penguin,
Seems all lovey, and woo.

When the spring light first came
And the weather got dandy
The Lukes and the Lilys
Began to get randy.

Hey baby! They called,
You are looking so fine,
Take this pebble of love
And you can be mine.

Oh hoochy! Oh coochy!
Stand still! I'll be quick.
But Lily is fickle.
Did Luke give her a chick?

Footprints on her back
Show she's tried it before.
It's only insurance!
Our sweet Lily's no whore!

The wedding is over
The nest is complete.
Lily sits like Queen Sheba
Piles of rocks at her feet.

Luke stands guard for the skua,
They both watch for the seal.
The egg and the instinct
Are honored, with zeal.

Some penguins are jealous,
They had no such luck,
They sneak to steal pebbles,
They fuss, and they cluck.

But Lily is fearless
And Luke remains cool.
The egg is kept warm.
It's their asset, their jewel.

Peck Peck! I want out!
Little chickie appears
Papa checks chickie's feet,
Mama checks chickie's ears.

Lily Penguin suggests
Let's name our boy Lars
Papa Luke puffs his chest
As he hands out cigars.

Luke and Lily soon learn
To their major surprise
Now that chickie is born
No more closing their eyes.

Peep Peep! I want food!
Bring me something to eat!
Luke and Lily grow weary
Nearly dead on their feet.

Soon Lars becomes fuzzy
A mass of gray fat
Luke and Lily agree
That's enough now, of that.

So Lars learns how to swim
How to catch his own krill
Lars doesn't mind that
But he dreams bigger, still.

For the one thing he sees
As the days pass on by,
Are the birds with big wings
Soaring high in the sky.

He stands on a rock,
He jumps with a flap,
But the beach comes to meet him,
And he lands with a blap!

He tries and he tries it
He jumps and he wishes
He thinks not of krill
Or even of fishies.

I KNOW I can do it!
I know there's a way!
I want to look down
On the ice, and the bay.

The other chicks mock him
Even Lily and Luke
Wonder what they did wrong.
Why is their boy a fluke?

Now Christmas Eve's here
Lars is sleeping, and dreaming,
And Santa is near
Hearing wishes, and scheming.

Then, while the ship parties
Drinking, eating, and singing,
Santa stops on a glacier
Sleigh bells tinkling and ringing.

Come here Lars! He says quickly,
Come and get in my sleigh,
I will take you up flying,
Up up up, and away!

More rapid than skuas,
His coursers they flew,
And Lars knew at that moment,
Heartfelt wishes come true!

The penguins below,
Saw Lars wave from his flight,
As he called, "Happy Christmas!
And to all, a Good Night!"

I decided to hand it in. I named it "The Rime of the Misunderstood Penguin," with a special Cootchy-Coo Dedication to Manuel Marin.

Wish me luck!
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