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Meet Aptenodytes patagonicus, a King penguin that is over 100 years old! Sadly, it’s been dead for more than 100 years as well, transported from its chilly sub-Antarctic-island home in the southern Pacific Ocean to the smelly smoggy London of the early 1900s in the bowels of Ernest Shackleton’s schooner, the Nimrod, on his return home from the 1908-09 British Antarctic expedition.


In its heyday, this penguin stood almost a metre tall, was probably born and lived its short life in and around Australia’s Macquarie Island, and thrived on a diet of fish and squid, diving down as far as 100 metres to catch its prey. It began life as an egg, propped on the feet of one of its parents for the 50-odd days it took to hatch and remained there for another 30-40 days once it had hatched (its parents took turns brooding it in the warm and cosy confines of a special flap of skin that covered their egg), before emerging as a cute brown bundle of fluff that would make even the hard-of-heart go “Awwww”.


Photographs of the Nimrod Expedition (1907-09) to the Antarctic, led by Ernest Shackleton; image dated 1908; source: Archive of Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. This image is in the Public Domain.

As it grew and fledged, this King penguin developed a brilliant splash of yellow colour around its neck, making it one of the most vibrant of all the world’s penguins, though sadly its vibrancy has now mostly faded away. Still, this little penguin has travelled much further than most of its peers and even today brings much joy to those who see it, in its smart glass case in the National Museum Cardiff. If you’re curious about how it got to Cardiff, you can read more here, but if you’re curious about why a member of Shackleton’s crew was playing the gramophone to the Antarctic penguins, I have no idea – I just loved the photo! Perhaps you can tell me.