Yes, penguin time again, as we review some interesting facts published on World Penguin Day, April 25th! Did you know that this is not the only day devoted to these flightless birds – that there is also the Penguin Awareness Day on January 20th? Well we didn’t. If anybody can tell us where these dates first came from, please do. The website worldpenguinday.com, mentioned by Greenpeace and National Geographic, looks private rather than official. Not a problem of course – any excuse to draw attention to penguins is welcome!

Moulting Adelie penguins in Antarctica by Frank Hurley

Moulting Adelie penguin at Cape Denison, by Frank Hurley, taken during the First Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914, from the Mitchell Library, the State Library of New South Wales

The marvellous photo above by Frank Hurley was featured at the top of an Oxford University Press blog.  In our humble opinion this is one of the funniest photos of penguins, inviting caption contests. In fact, if you click on the photo and go to Flickr, you will see just that – digital graffiti. (You have to let it load completely and then use your right button). And the best graffiti there is:-

- “So here you are buddy, we’ve been looking for you”.
- “OK guys, I swear, I’ll have the money for you tomorrow!”

This OUP blog highlights 11 interesting facts about penguins, each illustrated by a photo. The facts are sourced from the Oxford Index’s overview page entry on penguins. Particularly noteworthy facts are that their blubbery bodies make them overheat, thus presenting a barrier to their spread far northwards from the southern hemisphere, and that they are incredible divers, able to reach up to 265m deep.

National Geographic, as always, brings out some great photos and videos, and also a link to a fun PEW Charity quiz that tells you what kind of penguin personality you are. We thought this a cheat, after answering the questions on behalf of a classy Emperor and being deemed a flashy but shy Gentoo. Insulting!

The Greenpeace UK blog offers a range of highly curious facts. The Galapagos penguin can range into the Northern hemisphere, just, on foraging trips from the islands. Only 2 penguin species actually live only on the Antarctic continent (the Adelie and Emperor). Mention that fossils prove the existence of prehistoric penguins the size of humans makes one relieved to have missed that era – if you have seen films of Batman slugging it out with the Penguin, you hardly want to meet one your size in real life….

Most amusingly, the Greenpeace post also points out that the sex life of penguins was initially considered too shocking to be made public! Details of what George Murray Levick, a scientist with the 1910-13 Scott Antarctic Expedition, observed, and then how this only came to light recently, are described in this Guardian article. Suffice it to say, we are ourselves too shocked to repeat any of the observations here.

But surely the explanation for such apparently deviant penguin behaviour must be the intense cold, clearly affecting the judgement of either Levick or the poor maligned penguins? Then again, how to reconcile this with some of the comments in Levick’s newly-discovered pamphlet, for example that male Adelies join together as “little hooligan bands of half a dozen or more and hang about the outskirts of the knolls, whose inhabitants they annoy by their constant acts of depravity”. Perhaps the Garden of Eden was really in the Antarctic, and the apple was a particularly fat and juicy cod?

The only solution for those eager to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is to head out on a cruise and study the penguins directly. Fortunately we have contracted with several penguin associations to join us on most of our cruises, so we suggest you check out our cruises. Of these there is one for insatiable fanatics, the South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula Penguin Safari. But will you find yourself confronting hooligan bands? You’ll have to take that chance – and decide whether you dare tell us!