Penguins at Play
With the approach of summer, the sea ice broke away in patches, leaving open water along the shore of the rookery. Large companies of penguins now went down to bathe and to swim under the surface, catching the little shrimps, which swarmed there. These were their food.
The ice foot was about five feet above the water, so that they had to dive in. I soon noticed that they never dived in alone, but waited patiently until a little crowd had gathered. This was because a fierce kind of seal, called a sea leopard, often hid in the water under the overhanging ledge of the ice, waiting to catch the penguins when they dived in.
Each penguin wanted to find out of it coast was clear before it entered the water, so those behind tried to push one of those in front over the edge. When they succeeded in doing this, they all craned their necks to see if the penguin they had pushed in was attacked, by a sea leopard. If he was not attacked, all the rest dived in the started to swim about, catching shrimps. If a sea leopard shot out and caught him, the others just stayed where they were, or tried again at another place.
Soon the water was alive with crowds of penguins, Swimming about and Shouting at one another like boys at a School treat. The Water swarmed with them, all full of the joy of life.
They did not go in merely to fish: they Wanted to enjoy themselves, and the games they played were really amazing .There was a swift tide flowing past the rookery, bringing with it rafts of ice called ice floes. A crowd of penguins would swim upstream to the end of the rookery, where they would all board an ice floe and have a ride on it down to the lower end of the rookery. They would then dive into the water, swim all the way back, and board another floe for another joyride.
As they passed down the rookery, they would shout to the others crowded along the edge of the ice .These would shout back, and sometimes a few dozen would drive in and swim out to them, they boarded their ice raft until it was so crowded that, as fast as fresh penguins climbed on to it, others were pushed off the other side.
Along the ice foot all sorts of games were played .Their favorite seemed to be the game of ‘touch-last.’ One penguin would walk up to another, give him a smack with his flipper. Then dash in amongst the crowd, dodging about with the other in hot pursuit. If the second penguin caught the first, he would give him a quite good –humored smack in return. They would play this game for hours.
They seemed to love climbing. There was a grounded iceberg, fifty feet high, separated from the rookery by a few hundred yards of open water. All day long, there was a procession of penguins swimming to and from this berg.
We watched them through field glasses. When they reached the berg, they climbed up its side by quite a difficult path; it took them about a quarter of an hour of laborious climbing to get to the top. Each bird had a look around, then climbed down again and swam back to the rookery. They did it because they loved climbing.