National Geographic : 1955 Jan
100 Two King Penguins, Pets of the Expedition, Oversee a Watering Party at Work Nineteenth-century hunters took advantage of penguins' trustful nature to slaughter them for the oily blubber that protects their bodies from cold. Laws now forbid such fearful massacres. only three-quarters of a mile away. Their size was difficult to gauge, but the long pointed beaks and flashes of bright orange just behind their ears put the matter beyond any doubt. Here were our king penguins (page 94). The ridge where the kings had founded their colony was about 150 feet high. Cov ered with drifts of gray trampled snow, it ended sharply beside the sloping flank of the glacier. The birds evidently favor this site because it combines the largest area of snow free ground in the early spring with the year round ice and snow of the glacier. To avoid disturbing the birds, we made a detour and came down on the rookery from above. The majority of kings had already paired. Penguins stood about in couples as if waiting for something to happen. No doubt the something was the appearance of the precious egg. Meanwhile, the birds chat tered deafeningly. Wandering about was heartily frowned upon. When a penguin wished to leave its post for a while to swim or hunt for a meal, every neighbor it had to pass took forcible exception to its plans (page 102). Apart from this communal ban against cir culation inside the colony, I have never seen anything look more like a ceremonial garden party-the gay colors, the dense crowd, the incessant jabber, occasionally a high-pitched peal of mirth, and, above all, the continuous turning of heads.* Handshakes Upset Penguins' Dignity My first and most vivid impression of the kings was of their immense dignity. It takes a lot to ruffle a king. When a person goes very near, the bird shoots its neck up straight, turns its head, and utters a quiet gurgling protest. If one goes closer still, the penguin wheels and gives a couple of warning waves of the flipper. If the bird decides to retreat, it * See "Nature's Clown, the Penguin," by David Hellyer and Malcolm Davis, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, September, 1952.