Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The Penguin Race
by Kai and Simi from the Sailing Vessel Tyee
Humans call us the Galapagos Penguins, but we really should have a more creative name like the names of the other 16 species of penguins. The Rockhopper is a pretty cool name. Or how about the Macaroni penguin? Now that name makes you laugh. The Emperor sounds too pretentious. And so does King. I like Gentoo and Adele and they live in Antarctica where we came from a long time ago.
Call us the Fearsome Flyers. Even though we can’t fly in the air, we do a good job flying underwater.
The fastest swimming penguin of our tribe is Penguino. He won last year’s race. You see we have a race on the first of April every year and we time all the participants. Last year, 58 penguins competed in the race. They swam twelve miles from Puerto Villamil to Isla Tortuga and back. Penguino swam 25 miles per hour and he stopped like everyone else at Isla Tortuga to rest and refuel on a delicious penguin shake made of sardines, baby Sergeant Majors and bubbly water.
The winner of the race gets served fish during the whole month of April. Everyone who participated in the race has to bring fish to the winner at least once during the month. See that’s the bad part about competing.
My Mom and Dad named me Orville. I can fish by myself and I have two older brothers and a baby sister. I competed with Penguino in last year’s race, so I had to provide fish for Penguino. I tied for second with my older brother, Wilbur. This year I’m going to win and then Penguino will have to fish for me.
Another reason, we should be called the Fearsome Flyers is because our ancestors came here all the way from Antarctica, 6000 miles away. They must have been flying to make it here. I think we might have come here during the last Ice Age. We don’t have any ice or snow here in the Galapagos since we’re at the Equator. The water is just cold enough that I have lots of my favorite food, sardines. I think it’s just right, but sometimes during El Nino years we don’t have enough food. The last big El Nino year in 1997 wiped out 65% of our population. I wasn’t alive then.
We like to swim under the boats in the harbor as there lots of fish under there.
Sometimes we team up with the sea lions and birds to chase the fish. But once in an El Nino year, sea lions resorted to eating us, so we’re a bit wary of them.
One last thing I need to tell you before I go to sleep. I have to go to bed early, because tomorrow is the big day of the penguin race. I’m so excited I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep. But I know I need to if I’m going to stand a chance at winning. Wish me luck!
THE NEXT DAY…THE BIG RACE
It’s morning and I woke before the sun. There was a blue footed booby making noise all night long so I had a hard time getting to sleep, but I’m ready for the big race. First, I have to eat my mom’s special sardine pancakes. Mmmm they’re good!
“Wilbur, are you ready to go?”
“Not yet, Orville. I have to grease down my feathers. You should do it too. It’ll make you fly faster through the water,” Wilbur blurted out to me. We hunched over on the lava rocks with the Sally Lightfoot crabs and Wilbur showed me how to grease my feathers. It feels slimy.
“Let’s go, Wilbur. “ I was so anxious for the race.
Wilbur and I swam to the start of the race and we saw Penguino. He looked fast, but I had my strategy. I was going to pace myself and use the current.
The official penguin set the line for the start of the race. There were 51 competitors, a little less than last year. “Three, two, one BRAHHHHH, “ honked the official. We all dove into the water and flapped our wings. I went shallow and veered to the outside of the pack to get the current. The water whizzed by me. I passed schools of fish and didn’t even stop to take a nibble.
When I reached Isla Tortuga, my grandmother was there waiting to hand me my sardine shake. “You’re doing well,” she told me.
“But where’s Penguino, Wilbur and Paygriso?” I asked. I had no idea where any of the other penguins were. Granny told me the bad news. They had reached the island before me. I was in fourth place. Penguino, resting on the rock, looked over at me and blinked his sky blue eyes. He was the only penguin with blue eyes in the whole Galapagos; all of us other penguins have black eyes. How could I catch up?
Our twenty minute mandatory rest was up. Penguino jumped back in the water two minutes ahead of me. Then I plunged in right behind him. I was going to draft him. I flapped my wings, pointed my webbed feet, arched my body and flew through the water. I could barely see the other penguins in front of me and I kept my focus. Suddenly I could make out Penguino’s webbed feet. I was gaining on him. We had one more mile to swim and when I took a huge breathe I could only see Penguino ahead of me. I must have passed Wilbur and Paygriso.
Suddenly Penguino was by my side and going slower. He glanced over at me and I swam passed him moving my wings as fast as I could. I was in the lead. The other spectators on the rocks at the end were cheering, “Orville, Orville … go, go.” I needed to take another breath, but I was close. I could tell that Wilbur was right behind me. I kept going and I reached the special rock that ended the race. I jumped up on the rock, ahead of Wilbur and Penguino. I WON THE RACE!
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