As I lowered myself carefully into the water there were many doubts in my mind. Would the penguins come close enough for me to get the pictures I wanted? Would my red drysuit scare them? Was I wearing enough thermal underwear to stay warm?
For my fist few minutes I forgot about all these doubts. I had left my diving fins off because of a risk of scratching the perspex observation windows with a careless stroke. Diving without fins is something I was not used to and it took a while to get the hang of it.
With fins on I would have been gliding easily through the water, but swimming in bare boots just did not work. Carrying my camera housing I could not get any help from my arms. I tried walking, but was not heavy enough to get a purchase on the stones. Eventually I settled for a one armed shuffle, pulling myself along the bottom with my free hand.
Half a dozen gentoo penguins flew past in formation, banking round and flapping back to the other end of the pool. They had me beaten on artistic merit without even trying.
By the time I had settled down to one side my initial doubts were all gone. The penguins were definitely not scared of me; aqualung exhaust bubbles and a red drysuit did not seem to bother them, and I was comfortably warm.
It was a bright and crisp autumn day; not a cloud in the sky and Bristol Zoo was moderately busy. Taking time to look out through one of the windows it seemed I was starting to gather an audience.
Children were waving and pointing behind me. I guessed the penguins were interested in something to do with my diving equipment, but there was no way I could turn round and actually catch them at it.
As feeding time approached the larger and more colourful king penguins slipped into the water for their pre-lunch swim. I had to be finished before feeding could start, so I moved to the other end of the pool for some shots near the tunnel.
The eider ducks were now pottering about amongst the pebbles at the bottom of the pool, paddling along with their feet and much less elegant than the underwater flying of the penguins.
Next to join in were a pair of black cormorants, diving and pecking at anything that moved including the duck's feet. The penguins were too fast for this treatment, so once the eider ducks were bullied out of the way the cormorants turned their attention on me. Loose bits of diving equipment, camera fittings and fingers were all fair game. Good job I was wearing gloves.
I didn't need an observer to tell me when a cormorant was behind me, I could feel them pecking at the back of my head. The adjusters for my mask flapped invitingly and before I could stop him one cormorant pulled hard and flooded it. Having re-adjusted my mask and cleared the water I took time to tuck the straps in where they were not so inviting a target.