Damn Skuas!

While I was stationed in Antarctica I flew with both helicopter crews and fixed wing crews as a Search And Rescue Medical Technician.

Antarctic Skua

Skua image by tullis on flickr

When preparing for a flight one of the duties we often had was to go to the central galley (chow hall) and collect enough box lunches for the crew. Many of the flights we went on were between 3 and 8 hours long.

One of the interesting things about living in Antarctica is that the wildlife has legal protection to the point of being dominant over all human activities. Basically the Antarctic Conservation Act states that if you knowingly do anything that causes an animal to change its natural behavior, you can be fined up to $10,000 per incident. They take the interest of the habitat and its inhabitants very seriously.

Well, somehow the animals have found out about this! I don’t know how, but they know. And they take every advantage of it.

One example is when we were preparing for a long flight, the aircrew had to go to the chow hall and get enough box-lunches for the crew and passengers for that flight. Sometimes this meant getting multiple cases of box-lunches.

There is a bird that is native to Antarctica called a Skua. This bird looks like a seagull on steroids. They are big, and apparently they can read because they know that they are untouchable.

Whenever we had boxes of any kind of food around, we always had to post a guard at the food. Not for fear of someone stealing it, but for the expectation that one or more Skua would see that there was food available and would come and tear into it.

The other really dangerous activity was trying to make it from the chow hall to another building with a plate of food. The Skuas were like WWII dive bombers! If they caught anyone out in the open with food, they would dive-bomb you until you dropped it. Then they would land on it and stare up at you like you were interrupting their meal. Little bastards!

Of course there was only one thing you could do at this point. Haul your butt back to the chow hall and get ready for another run through the gauntlet. I think this is one of the reasons that we weren’t supposed to take any food out of the chow hall. It was for our own safety.

Thinking back on this gives me the idea that many of us have our own “skuas” in our lives.

These are the people that swoop in whenever they feel like it, impose their will and then treat you like you are imposing on them.

Some will dive-bomb you with their unsolicited advice. You don’t know what you’re doing. You need to find a better job! You can’t go out with that person. You’re never going to amount to anything.

Some will drop in and help themselves to your refrigerator, your closet, your tools, your couch or even your car.

Fortunately the Antarctic Conservation Act doesn’t apply to our lives (unless you find yourself in Antarctica!). We can give these skuas the boot. We don’t have to put up with their antics.

When they come swooping in, let them know that what they are doing is disruptive and unwelcome. Give them the boot if you have to. You have the right to a life without the negative influence of these kind of people.

They are not a protected species. Although, sometimes I wonder with the way they act if they believe that they are.


Don’t put up with the Skuas in your life.

Give them the boot and get on with making your dreams come true!


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4 Responses to Damn Skuas!

  1. Paige | simple mindfulness December 24, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    Love the analogy! Some skuas are easier to boot than others. My father is one of them. For so many years I was just used to the negativity. After leaving home and learning how positive people can be, I realized that I didn’t have to put up with it. At first I tried working with him to get him to see how he spewed his negativity at others and asked him to be more kind. He refused which has resulted in our relationship being distanced and very superficial. Anything more than that brings out his guns of negativity and I walk away.

    We don’t have to take it from anyone, even close family. Our job is to live our own lives in accordance with our own personal values. It doesn’t really matter what the skuas think.

    Thank you Mike!

    • Mike Routen December 24, 2011 at 1:28 am #


      I’m sorry to hear that your father is so negative. I find it amazing that people can be so negative even after it has been brought to their attention.

      Great job on overcoming that influence and staying positive!

      Thanks for the note,


  2. Jason December 24, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    I can totally relate to the skua analogy Mike. I think anyone who has persued a dream has encountered their fair share of these bullies. This analogy reminds me of a book I read once that calls this pack the “border bullies”. As you make the decision to move from “Nowhere Land” to “Somewhere Land” in pursuit of your dream, you will get to the border and realize there are a pack of bullies in your life, often from people close to you, family and friends, that think they are doing the right thing by talking some “sense” into you.

    We must plow through this negativity, follow our hearts and dreams with everything we’ve got! These skuas and border bullies are often bitter that they’ve never persued their own hearts and callings toward a dream and something bigger in their life. Let them be bitter and don’t allow them to infiltrate and own your life.

    Thanks Mike!

    • Mike Routen December 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm #


      That is a great analogy! I’ve never heard of “border bullies” before, but it very accurately describes them. I find it amazing how vocal and violent they can become even when our success has no direct bearing on them.

      Thank you for this insight!