South Africa

Taiwan

Alaska

California

Galapagos
Islands

Mexico

Florida Keys

Marineland

Georgia Coast

Atlanta

December 9

LEAVING SOUTH AFRICA

Well, here we sit––Willow, Bobby, my dad, Mortimer (“Morty”) and yours truly–– preparing to undertake an amazing journey from South Africa to our new home at Georgia Aquarium.

It’s an exciting time for me. As a marine biologist penguin, I look forward to having the resources of one of the world’s largest aquariums, which will help oodles with my work in conservation. Oodles is such a good word!

We’ve planned to take our time on this journey with 10 important stops. One of our visits will be with our cousin penguins –Spheniscus mendiculus -- who live in the Galapagos Islands and like us, enjoy a good waddle. Many of our stops will be to further Georgia Aquarium’s conservation work in real environments.

I know Bobby is excited to get to Atlanta, but he’ll learn a lot on this journey. I’m letting him hold onto his security blanket–– a basketball. He won’t sleep without it. Willow won’t get a signal on her phone in a lot of places. I can’t imagine her without her third appendage attached. It’s like a cell flipper!

Oh, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer a huge whale-sharked size thank you to the non-profit group SANCCOB – one of the Aquarium’s longest standing research and conservation partners. South Africa is rich in sea bird diversity, and they’ve helped us combat the effects of oils spills, overfishing and climate change. My dad Morty was a survivor of the 2000 MV Treasure oil spill, when a ship sank six miles off the coast of South Africa and oiled nearly 20,000 penguins. Fortunately, dad was rescued, cleaned and rehabilitated. That’s when I decided to devote my life to marine biology–– and I can’t wait to enjoy our trip to Georgia Aquarium, where I’m sure to do the best work of my career.

Bon voyage and anchors away–– here come the Waddlesworth Family to reunite with the best husband and father in the world, George!

Hmmm, I wonder if there’s any drinks with umbrellas...

December 11

TAIWAN

Well here we are in Taiwan.

I’m excited about the most magnificent creatures here: whale sharks. It was ten years ago when whales sharks made the identical journey we’re making to Georgia Aquarium. It will be an honor to be in the company of these gentle giants. Whale sharks are the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate, and originated 60 million years ago.

Some days I feel 60 million years old, especially when Willow is acting up. I can relate.

I’m looking forward to meeting the four whale sharks that inhabit Georgia Aquarium.

Willow has already made friends with the creatures here, and is in a good mood because she gets great reception on her cell phone in Taiwan. But miracle of miracles, even she is in awe of witnessing these magnificent creatures. I honestly don’t remember her spending so little time staring at her phone. It’s amazing what the wonders of nature can do!

Willow did exchange text numbers with one of the boy whale sharks. I think she has a crush on him, but I seriously doubt it will go anywhere. Tweenagers!

I’ve got to run and wake up Morty from his nap–– we’re having seafood for dinner.

December 14

ALASKA

Alaska. This is just an amazing place. I think my husband George is jealous of our extended journey, but he’s happy for his family to experience it. He sent me a note this morning to take pictures with the beluga whales. I’ve got to get one of those selfie sticks!

Bobby dropped his basketball again… and one of the belugas just bounced it off his nose right back to him. It was an adorable moment, and Bobby even caught the ball!

Belugas are beautiful creatures, and it’s nice that Georgia Aquarium is doing important work to help preserve this species. GA team members have travelled to Bristol Bay, Alaska and participated in a collaborative study of beluga whales. As animal advocates, we are responsible scientists who believe we have an obligation to help beluga whales survive as a species!

If you ever see a beluga, you can’t help but smile because they have a permanent smile on their faces. Morty likes that because it looks like they’re laughing when he tells his corny jokes.

I’m looking forward to having belugas as our neighbors at Georgia Aquarium. I think George and I will have a dinner party with them. I’m not sure what kind of music they’ll like, but belugas do like to sing. One of the belugas here told me they are quite fond of 80’s music. I chuckled and imagined George and I performing “Wind Beneath My Wings” in their honor.

It will be nice to be in our new home.

December 17

Sausalito, CALIFORNIA

California. What a remarkable experience to be here. I’ve read so much about this place, especially Hollywood—although I hear they’re shooting a lot of films and TV shows in Atlanta, too. Maybe Morty will be discovered and get his own series!

I tried surfing—although I admit I’m not very good at it. Flippers don’t settle well on surfboards. I talked with some sea lions too who told me about two young male sea lion pups who were rescued after being found stranded, malnourished and underweight. They were cared for and are healthy now at their new home at Georgia Aquarium. The sea lions here said the young pups are excited to be at Georgia Aquarium because they’re treated like kings (they’re sea lions, after all!).

I have to tell you this about sea lions: their whiskers are amazing… and their laugh is positively contagious! Of course, dad (Morty) loves telling them his jokes.

Bobby especially likes playing with them. He says their basketball-handling skills are STRONG. It’s quite remarkable. One of the sea lions is teaching him how to hold the ball with his nose. Not sure if that’s a skill that will get Bobby into the NBA, but it’s fun to watch. I think the NBA should incorporate a nose-ball handling rule into their game. But what do I know–– I’m just a scientist with her silly Phd in marine biology.

We’re getting closer to our new home. It will be great to be back together as a family soon.

December 23

GALAPAGOS

In the big G, and it’s amazing!

The Galapagos Islands are an ecological hotspot for animals from land, sea and sky. In fact, from Darwin Island the largest whale sharks in the world can be seen from August to November. They are all female and all appear to be pregnant. This is critically important for researchers because documentation of the complete life cycle of whale sharks has been very difficult.

This past year, Dr. Al Dove of Georgia Aquarium was invited to participate with seven other international scientists as part of the Galapagos Whale Shark Project. It’s quite an honor, and Dr. Dove assisted with dives, tagging whale sharks and obtaining biopsies for this very important study. I’m so proud to be associated with such a distinguished and respected scientist, and who knows–– maybe I’ll be invited to join their team!

Bobby, Willow and Morty were very excited to finally meet our cousins, the Galapagos Penguins (I call them Spheniscus mendiculus... they looked at me funny when I said that). Bobby and some of the other boys started playing a pick-up game of b-ball, and Willow showed some of the teen girls her phone and some of her favorite emojis.

Morty enjoyed the fresh air and telling our cousins some of his favorite knock-knock jokes. They laughed and laughed, of course, I’ve heard them a million times before, but it was great to see everyone having so much fun.

Okay, got to run, we’re taking off again soon!

December 29

Mexico

Well, we’ve arrived at The Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. The water is amazing–– so blue and clear.

It’s been amazing to meet my new manta ray friends. Bobby and Willow are marveling at the way mantas glide through the sea – “flying” underwater with wingspans that can reach 28 feet!

When Willow marvels at anything that isn’t her phone, it’s quite a statement. You KNOW it’s something incredible.

I’m excited that the field team here from Georgia Aquarium has been very successful at satellite tagging the mantas. This helps us better understand their movements, why they like certain waters at certain times of years, and where they migrate to when they leave.

All this information is invaluable in Georgia Aquarium’s commitment to conservation and helping this magnificent species maintain its healthy population.

We’ll be here a few days and then be on to our next stop. It’s been an amazing trip so far – but all of us will be glad to be together again with George in our new home. And it’s nice to know four of my new neighbors will be the giant manta rays at Georgia Aquarium.

Atlanta is lucky to have a chance to see these graceful animals up close. Come by and see all the incredible species.

Well, that’s all for this entry. Dad is asking about dinner–– he gets grumpy when he doesn’t eat on time. Come to think of it, he’s been pretty grumpy all the time (but in an adorable kind of way).

Next stop, Florida!

January 5

Florida Keys

We had a nice trip and have arrived in the Florida Keys today. It is a very beautiful place and the kids are enjoying meeting all the interesting marine life populating the coral reefs here.

The colors are just remarkable. It’s like a kaleidoscope underwater. Willow is convinced she could make a whole new fashion line using the reefs as her inspiration. I gave her a good name for it–– Willow’s Coral Couture. She acted like it was just okay, but I think she really loves it.

Dad commented on how relaxing it is in the Keys–– when he’s awake (which is not very often). Morty loves to nap at the beach (and just about anywhere else, too).

I’m excited about the remarkable work of Georgia Aquarium and The Coral Restoration Foundation. They’re restoring the Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral in the upper Keys using ocean-based aquaculture nurseries and transplantation methodologies. This approach to active reef management has the potential to restore reefs to approximately their original biodiversity and stability.

It’s thrilling to see. I’m so proud witnessing the impact Georgia Aquarium is having in natural environments. It really is impressive and proves the organization’s commitment to conservation.

And it’s also thrilling to know we’re only a few more stops from our new home. Is it possible to be homesick for a place I haven’t actually been yet? I think so!

That’s all for now. Bobby just dropped his ball in the water. Again. Sigh.

January 7

Marineland, Florida

We’ve arrived in Marineland, Florida, and I’m so excited to be here!

As a Marine Biologist, I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be associated with Georgia Aquarium and other conservation partners studying the health of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and the ecosystems they live in–– it’s a research program known as HERA (that stands for Health and Environment Risk Assessment).

Since 2003, this important program has examined how diseases affecting dolphins are related to potential environmental stressors that could affect both animal and human health! Talk about an important study!

Over the years, HERA program researchers have safely examined and released more than 350 bottlenose dolphins, primarily from the Florida Indian River Lagoon (IRL). The IRL is an ecologically diverse estuary covering almost 40 percent of Florida’s east coast, and unfortunately, it has experienced significant changes in water quality due to land-use and pollution.

In fact, I learned that in the northern region of the IRL, some dolphins have died. HERA researchers will be studying this year’s findings very carefully. Animal conservation is critically important to everyone at Georgia Aquarium, and yours truly is looking forward to helping in any way I can.

Willow tried communicating with a dolphin, but she didn’t have much luck understanding what he said. She resorted to showing the dolphin an emoji of a smiling face–– and he seemed to understand that!

Bobby is enjoying working on his basketball moves in the Florida sun, and Morty is enjoying napping under the same generous sun.

We ‘re all so excited to be making our way to see George in our new home!

January 11

Georgia Coast

We’re on the Georgia coast, making our way to our new home in Atlanta!

Today I learned about Georgia Aquarium’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts for loggerhead sea turtles, and it’s incredibly impressive.

Over the years, Georgia Aquarium and its Dolphin Conservation Field Station (DCFS) have rescued turtles in trouble due to environmental changes like water temperature drops or being stranded. The expert veterinarian staff and biologists work hard to bring the turtles back to good health, then, they are released back into their natural habitats.

Best of all, the released turtles are fitted with scientific satellite tracking devices so their migration, behavior and progress can be tracked to current locations and studied.

Georgia Aquarium is also collaborating with University of Georgia and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island on an in-depth nutritional study on green sea turtles. It’s all part of Georgia Aquarium’s commitment to animal health and conservation, and it’s enough to make this Marine Biologist swell with pride to be on the team!

Willow has been texting like it’s going out of style–– her flippers are flying so fast, I’m afraid she’s going to take off! Morty enjoyed a nice waddle on the beach on Jekyll Island. It’s so beautiful!

And Bobby has been telling anyone who will listen that he’s going to learn how to dunk the ball when he gets to Atlanta (I’m afraid the only way that will happen is if we get him a ladder–– but, everyone needs a dream, right?).

Hold on, George–– your family’s almost home!

January 14

WE’VE ARRIVED IN ATLANTA!

Well, we've finally made it to our new home. We've just arrived in Atlanta at Georgia Aquarium. It is so wonderful to see George again. I love my penguin hubby. And the Aquarium is the most amazing place I've ever seen – so many new friends, fellow marine biologists and manificent animals.

The whole family is very tired from the trip, except for Bobby, who is already asking when he can go to his first Hawks game. First things first, though. We need to get rested for our big interview tomorrow.

Can you believe it? All of us Waddlesworths will be on Good Morning Atlanta with that charming host, Brad Caster. Willow must have asked me ten times what she should wear. I keep reminding her, she's a penguin so all she needs to wear is her penguin suit just like the rest of us. Hopefully, dad can stay awake for the entirety of the interview.

Oh, one more reminder before I sign out: National Penguin Awareness Day is January 20th, an exciting day for penguins all around the world. And on January 23rd, we're going to invite all of Atlanta to come celebrate with us at the Aquarium at our first big event: Party with the Penguins. More details on that are coming, but it will be a day we will roll out the black and white carpet. Now, I'm off to get some rest. I expect I'll need oodles of rest. Tomorrow is a big day.

December 9

LEAVING SOUTH AFRICA

December 11

TAIWAN

December 14

ALASKA

December 17

Sausalito, CALIFORNIA

December 23

GALAPAGOS

December 29

Mexico

January 5

Florida Keyes

January 7

Marineland, Florida

January 11

Georgia Coast

January 14

Atlanta