Happy Feet shaping up and shipping out
Tuesday 30 Aug 2011 7:13 p.m.
By Charlotte Shipman
Happy Feet the penguin is now well on his way to the southern ocean where he'll be set free to mingle with other juvenile emperors.
Dan MacGibbon's still getting comfortable with his new job as Happy Feet's chief restrainer.
He's one of two scientists helping to care for the emperor penguin on his journey to the sub-Antarctic.
On board, Happy Feet's crate has become the equivalent of the office water cooler.
“I went and sort of had a wee chat to happy feet last night while no one else was around because we've got a few secrets to talk about,” says chief engineer Allan Harvey.
For the first time in 10 weeks Happy Feet spent the night under an open sky breathing fresh, salty air.
“He seems pretty keen to get out of that crate so I think he is quite aware that he on the ocean and I think he is getting quite apprehensive and excited,” says vet Lisa Argilla.
This is a busy research ship on a million dollar mission.
Its Captain Roger Goodison knows how precious his cargo is.
“Every job is important and we treat this the same way,” says Captain Goodison.
So far, the juvenile penguin has travelled a 138 kilometres. He's still got 1100 to go until he's released on Saturday.
NIWA staff will create a makeshift hydroslide out of two large tarpaulins so that Happy Feet won't get rust or oil on his feathers as he slides down the ramp.
And then he'll be on his own until hopefully he catches up with other juvenile penguins at sea.
But the last message he'll receive from the crew is bold and simple.