The Penguin That Swam Away

February 10, 2013

Do you know this picture? It’s taken by wildlife photographer Amos Nachoum. A leopard seal and a penguin in the Antarctic Sea.

Leopard Seal

I find myself having so many reactions to it. In awe of the power of the leopard seal. In grief for the fate of the penguin.

I showed it to my daughter. She’s only four. I explained the photo might be a bit scary. But she loves marine life and talks every day about being a scientist. I thought she would love it.

And she did. And then came the questions.

“Leopard seals are very dangerous, aren’t’ they?”


“That water must have been very cold!”


And then,

“Mum, do we know if someone took a photo of the penguin swimming away?”

No, no we don’t know.

I answered as honestly as my sinking heart could. I didn’t want to crush her innocence.

I was also a little jealous of her innocence. I hadn’t thought of that possibility. Is this what it is like to be young? To be so hopeful about every situation?

I looked again at the penguin. What was he thinking? Did I detect a posture of resignation? Did he accept his fate? Or was he about to swim for his life?

The truth is the penguin was already dead. When I investigated further, the penguin had been chased, dragged into deep water, and drowned – as is the nature of attack of leopard seals. In the photo, the seal is ‘playing’ with its prey.

But it’s still a powerful photo. And I still find myself thinking about the penguin up until this point. Because right now I AM that penguin. Tired as anything, being chased by a monstrous beast. Does anyone else feel like the penguin? I hope I’m not alone.

The beast is different for us all. For me the beast is actually the tiredness itself. If I could just get on top of the exhaustion… What I wouldn’t give to have energy again… My beast has been created by many things. Most days it feels like I’m spiralling into the jaws of the leopard seal.

The question is: do I accept my fate? Or do I dash through the water and hope for dear life the leopard seal is having an off day? There’s a microscopic chance I could make it. A speck of hope.

I think I’m going to cling to that speck. I’m going to think like a four year old.

Get your cameras ready. I’m about to swim away.



{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Vicky February 10, 2013 at 7:58 am

I can so relate to that feeling of exhaustion. I started back in the paid work force this week after full time mothering for the last 8 years. It will be a part time position, but for the next month it’s pretty much full time. Nothing like diving straight on in!

The last time I felt this tired I had a new born.

I will just keep swimming.
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Deb February 10, 2013 at 8:01 am

Oh Vicky, I can only imagine how full-on going back to work would be. As if mothering wasn’t exhausting enough. Keep on swimming though – I’m right there with you! xx


Naomi Bulger February 10, 2013 at 8:43 am

Don’t stop swimming my friend. And take heart. Just behind that seaweed are 199 other penguins, all armed to the teeth and ready to give that leopard seal a nasty surprise. You are not alone! X
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Deb February 10, 2013 at 9:27 am

Love your encouraging words, Naomi! So glad I’m not alone! xx


Debyl1 February 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Oh Deb I so feel like this.
I don’t know if my beast is the health issues I am going through and the pain that comes with them.Maybe it is the the many hours a week I spend with mum in the nursing home and the energy it takes to fight off the sadness of seeing her this way.Or it could be the last few difficult years of coping with a very hormonal teenage girl.
But I am doing as you say…hoping the leopard seal is having a off day and am dashing through that water as hard as it may be.
I know you will be able to do it too Deb as you swam so fast and made it past so many of those beasts before.You are my inspiration.When the leopard seal gets too close to me I think of what you have made it through and I swim that much faster.Xx


Deb February 12, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Debbie, I feel for your beast – ill health and pain in any shape is so hard to live with on a daily basis. I do hope you find the strength to dash through the water too. Your kind words of empathy are truly touch me – you help more people than you might realise. Let’s swim together, shall we? xx


Sharon @ Funken Wagnel February 10, 2013 at 9:15 pm

You can make it. Just keep swimming:)
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Deb February 11, 2013 at 9:54 am

Yes, I intend to! Keep cheering me on! x


Carli February 11, 2013 at 9:53 am

What an amazing photo. Some days all you can do is swim straight into the beast’s mouth but other day’s there’s nothing sweeter than thinking like a four year old x
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Deb February 11, 2013 at 9:55 am

So very well put, Carli. I hope I can think like a four year old more often than I do. :)


Lee February 15, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Swim Deb, swim! I know that the thought of that is exhausting in itself. I hope you are okay, and how wonderful is your Miss A!! xx
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Deb April 17, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Lee, I’ve only just discovered this comment of yours for some reason! Thank you for it! xx


Grace February 19, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Love your little girl. She’s such a treasure.
Totally hear you on the exhaustion thing. Hubs keeps telling me that it’s just temporary. I don’t think we look at the situation the same way. But each day there’s the light of hope gets a little brighter. Just a teeny tiny bit.
Sending hugs xxx
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Deb April 17, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Grace, thank you for this comment! I only just discovered it! :)


Veronica @ Mixed Gems February 25, 2013 at 10:48 am

The little ones can throw such a different perspective on things, can’t they? I can relate to being tired and weary, often running on adrenalin. It’s not good. I think my recent posts, mostly being about escape really say a lot to where I’m at too. Wishing you good things. I hope you are finding some relief out of the fog. xo
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Deb March 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I’m so sorry to you’ve been so tired too, Veronica. I’m really looking forward to catching up with your posts soon – seriously, your posts and your life are important to me! Wishing your relief and good things too. xxx


Trish May 13, 2013 at 8:34 am

Another gem Deb, I am in awe of both mother and daughter.
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Deb May 13, 2013 at 10:09 am

Thanks, Trish. Much love to you. xxx


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