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.