Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve met plenty of six-foot wingspans before. Heck, there are folks on UNC’s basketball team with wingspans much wider than that. I don’t think any of them have big, pointy beaks, though, and I’m also pretty sure none of them have ever eaten a penguin or seal. Meet the Giant Petrel: closest thing I’ve ever seen to a pterodactyl.

Battling the Boobies


Our ship must appear, to some birds, like the only truck stop along an ocean highway stretching for hundreds of empty miles in any direction.  Throughout our voyage, a strange assortment of birds—from sparrows to owls—found their way to the SSV Seamans.

Most of our avian guests paused to rest for just a few hours before heading on their way.  Others stayed for days at a time.  One such bird was a baby egret we found cowering in the scuppers.  We named him Henry.  Though he was clearly starving, we were forbidden by the ship’s authority to feed him, which of course only made us love him more.  A few of us formed an underground coalition to sneak Henry scraps of fish.

Henry looks longingly through a porthole

Chapter I, in which the enemy arrives

Two weeks after Henry presumably took off for home, a plague of nearly fifty boobies set upon the ship.  While Henry was a loveable bird eliciting much sympathy, the boobies were quite the opposite.  They established their stronghold high in the ship’s rigging.  Singing out with cacophonous gurgles and squawks, the boobies began to launch a barrage of fecal missiles.

Boobies on the courseyard

Chapter II, in which I become a casualty of warfare

We did what we could to stand our ground.  Late one evening, just after midnight, I was on bow watch.  I was alone.  I was harnessed to the bow of the ship, and had nowhere to run. I was thus was acutely aware of the boobies crowing overhead.  Listening to the little splats landing on deck behind me, I was beginning to think that putting on my foul weather gear might not be a bad idea.  All of a sudden, I saw a falling guano-bomb out of the corner of my eye.  With lightning-fast reflexes, I managed to lean to the side just in time to avoid being pooped upon.

This must have been exactly what the boobies wanted me to do.  Yes!  Yes!  She’s leaning this way now … wait for it, wait for it … fire away! And as I leaned, a second booby released a massive shit.  I saw it coming, but was too far off-balance.  There was nothing I could do.  It was…

(should I say it?)

…it was a booby trap.

Chapter III, in which we launch our counteroffensive

Days passed.  We were forced to retreat.  The foredeck was plastered in bird droppings despite our daily deck washes, and the ship reeked.  It was time to do something. Viva la resistance!  Our first method of attack was potato gun, a sizeable air rifle fashioned by the ship’s engineers from an old bilge pipe, capable of shooting chunks of potatoes and small carrots.  High-speed vegetable proved to be difficult ammunition, but finally we hit a booby. Cheers erupted from the onlookers below as brown feathers were sent flying from the topyard, but the example of one unfortunate booby was apparently not enough to ward off its cronies.

Adam fires the potato gun

Chapter IV, featuring a giant slingshot

While one contingent of our crew stayed in the rigging with the potato gun, another team attacked the boobies from on top of the doghouse.  This time the weapon of choice was an enormous slingshot.  Created from surgical tubing and a large plastic cup, the slingshot required three men to operate.  We had a few more successes launching cabbages, apples, and potatoes, but this still was not enough.  The boobies had gained a lamentable sense of impudence and fearlessness.

loading the slingshot

Chapter V, in which we get desperate

The battle raged on like this for several more days.  Finally it was decided that serious weaponry should be employed.  Our solution: fire hose.  Up into the rigging went Dave, the chief engineer.  Up into the rigging went the fire hose.  And up into the rigging spewed a six-million-pounds-per-square-inch torrent of seawater.  Dave valiantly faced many gooey white counterattacks as he sprayed down every last cursed booby.  Soon, they were all confusedly flying around behind the boat.  Back on deck, we commenced our victory celebrations, and considered erecting a small commemorative arch on the quarterdeck.

Dave with the fire hose


The next day, the boobies had returned, no doubt with vengeance in their tiny, evil hearts and excremental ammunition in their tiny, evil intestines.  We were shocked.  We were crushed.  We had been soundly defeated by boobies.

the boobies return