Discriminating penguin watchers everywhere really want to know:
What DO you wear when you go visit the penguins?
This was a question that weighed heavily on my mind for the months, weeks and days leading up to my recent trip to Antarctica and the Falkland Islands. I was so happy at the prospect of visiting actual penguins but worried about the prospect of weighing how long I could stand the bliss while freezing.
Here is the breakdown of my final solution when I visited the gentoo penguins at North Pond, about 2 hours outside of Stanley on the Falkland Islands.
Upper Body, Five Layers:
- Knit shirt
- Wool sweater
- Puffer vest with down somewhere in between the ruffles
- Second vest, a reversible lined vest
- Barbour jacket to withstand the inevitable sleet, rain and mud
Head, Three Layers:
- Handmade wool hat with fluffy flower on the side for full effect to impress the penguins
- Hood from my Barbour jacket – you actually need it as the cord tie tightens around your face
- Burberry scarf, and it doesn’t matter to the penguins apparently if it has holes in it
Hands, Two Layers:
- Gloves from Christmas two years ago, circa 2012, with the fingers cut off so you can actually operate your camera
- Thinsulate gloves from Walmart with a leopard skin print, also to impress the penguins
Legs, Two Layers:
- Yoga tights – once you hit menopause, these serve a dual purpose, wicking away hot sweats and actual exercise perspiration
Feet, Two Layers:
- Practical socks – everyone has them so no further description is needed
- Ugg boots from my mother. You feel a bit dowdy but tramping through the mud, sleet, rain, grass, etc. to the penguin rookery and your toes still feel warm, you say a prayer of thanks for this convenience.
I was afraid of rain and it rained. I didn’t anticipate the sleet, but it didn’t matter. The wind blows so hard on the Falklands there are no trees, so the fact of the matter is you need every ounce of clothing you can think of and then some.
But at last, the penguins!
What the gentoo penguins wore:
1. No hat
2. No scarf
3. No gloves
4. No socks or shoes
5. Fabulous tuxedos perfect for swimming and nesting
No words can describe the gentoos, though I hope to try in upcoming blog posts.
Suffice it to say that this was one of the best days of my life!
Happiness in tall order.