Every year a few friends and I pick a place to visit during the week from Christmas to New Year’s Eve. Past choices have included London and Washington DC. This year the targeted spot was Boston. I know it is a rather questionable destination especially if the weather goes south (or more correctly north). With that in mind we made sure that our accommodations included a spa and a cozy bar/lounge area. With those requirements satisfied and an unfortunate last-minute cancellation by one of my friends, my intrepid fellow photographer and videographer Lenore and I boarded the Acela and made our way to, according to its many nicknames, Boston, Beantown, The City of Kind Hearts, The Cradle of Liberty or The Hub of the Universe.
As you probably know – the weather did go north – quite arcticly, with a windchill well below zero and a smattering of snow. Still it was sunny so, armed with silk glove liners, long johns and my beloved Iceland Viking hat we started out journey – and it was wonderful.
Our first stop was the spa – to massage away any tight muscles and anoint our bodies with much-needed hydration, Thus fortified we decided a rather unusual, considering the weather, mode of transportation to get to the renowned New England Aquarium:
The body of the water taxi was surrounded by a structured plastic covering so not only were we protected from the bone chilling winds we also got to view the beautiful harbor along the way:
Our first stop at the New England Aquarium was a perfect fit for my interest in nature, conservation and saving our planet. This 50-year-old aquarium’s exhibits mimic as closely as possible the marine animals’ natural environment with a few thrown in extra treats (will explain in a moment). It is a global leader in ocean exploration and marine conservation. And, in turns out, a perfect place to visit on a cold winter day.
As soon as we walked in we heard braying but it wasn’t coming from a pack of donkeys:
The sound came from African Penguins which are also known as jackass penguins for their donkey-like braying call. You might assume that these penguins should be right at home in the cold iciness of the Boston winter, but African Penguins actually dwell on the coast of Southern Africa where it is considerably hotter. Fortunately for the penguins, the New England Aquarium regulates their habitat, keeping the water and their “islands” at the appropriate temperature. it also was a warm, welcome boon to the visiting humans like myself.
The adult African Penguins form life long pairs and we were lucky to see one of pair doing some bonding which involved synchronized movements:
Ah sweet love.
Sadly in the wild African Penguins are endangered due to overfishing of their food supply, climate change and pollution. The New England Aquarium has an ongoing program to help increase the population. Every effort needs to be made to help these gregarious birds.
The next group of penguins is also from a far away place and one that I will be exploring soon – New Zealand. The Little Blue Penguin is the smallest penguin species in the world, growing to no more than a foot tall and this penguin is thought to be the first that evolved from flying birds. I think they are like small dogs, looking forever young:
My favorite penguin is literally a rock star – the Rock Hopper Penguin who has an amazing agility hopping up and down the steep rocky islands of its natural habitat. They have long yellow feathers that stick out of their heads in wild abandon adding to their bad punk rocker image. These hardy birds are most suited to cold weather as their natural habitat includes the sub-Antarctic as well as a the more temperate areas of the Indian and South Atlantic Ocean.
If you noticed those little mats – they are the “treats” I mentioned. The mats are heated so the penguins can warm up after a swim like a warmed towel:
Fun fact: the Rock Hopper is the only penguin species that will dive feet first rather than head first into the ocean.
What I really love about these penguins is their “tude:
More adventures in Boston coming next week,