National Geographic : 1952 Sep
427 Iilmar Pabel King Penguin, a Winged Submarine, Surfaces for a Quick Breather Enemies find it hard to spot the swimming penguin. Seen from above, his black top blends with ocean's depths; from below, his white breast melts into the sky. A thick layer of blubber protects him from cold. Steering with tail feathers and feet and swimming with powerful flippers, he torpedoes through the water at 30 feet a second. Cameras seldom catch his swift flash; this rare picture was taken in a Berlin zoo. might have been a flying bird when what is now the Antarctic region was a temperate, forested land. Then, with the advent of the ice, the area changed to desolate waste. But the penguin stayed on to become supreme ruler. As need to fly lessened, his wings degenerated until he became flightless. Others contend that the wing is not a degenerate member and that the penguin never did possess the power of flight. Another theory holds that the bird took to flying through water as well as the air, finally abandoning the air entirely in favor of flight under water. Many scientists hold that the penguin is one of the most primitive of all birds. In an effort to throw further light on the question, three members of Scott's last expedi tion to the Antarctic undertook what one of them called "the worst journey in the world." Dr. E. A. Wilson, official zoologist for the expedition, believed that a study of the eggs of the emperor would establish links with the past. Fighting almost superhuman odds, Wilson and two companions battled blizzards, moun tainous ridges of pressure ice, crevasses, and temperatures as low as -77° F., many times facing death in their six-week, 100-mile trip on foot across Ross Island, from Cape Evans to the Cape Crozier rookery and back. Precious Eggs Broken in Retreat There, in the shadows of M1ount Terror, they snatched five eggs and fled to avoid certain death in the face of an approaching blizzard. Two of the eggs were broken as they made their perilous way back to their flimsy tent. Months later the precious specimens were delivered to a scientist in England for analysis. But his study did not solve the puzzle of the penguin's evolutionary history. Even today the question is not settled to ornithologists' satisfaction.