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Hello from 51.09N 0.94W

penguin
Dear Mother and all at 75.35S 26.34W,

Hello from 51.09N 0.94W ! I’m sorry I should have told you, I didn’t just slip out for a quick bit of fishing. I have decided that I should see a bit of the world….so I’m taking an extended gap year from Antarctica. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be away from all that wind and ice, though the people I’ve met aren’t all like that nice Mr Attenborough in his boyscout shorts. They all come up close and would prod me if it weren’t for the box I’m in[1].

But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’ll want to know how I got here, 9788 miles from you down South. Well there we were at Windy Bay, all standing around in a huddle. We knew it must be summer because the nice people from Halley Station had come on a little day trip to see us and count us. (It’s such fun, when they’ve counted up to 100 penguins, we move the huddle a little bit round in a circle and they have to start all over again….) I was not feeling well so lay down for a little snooze in the ice. Before you could say “sea skua” I was another frozen lump in the snow. A lovely lady from Halley rushed up and kindly put me in a duvet and buried me in a snow hole. And so my journey began.
Still in my block of ice, I was put aboard a ship and taken to the Falklands. (You remember that place, lots of fish to eat, and not too many greedy fishermen bent on starving us penguins). That was where I met Steve the Stuffer. Charming man, his job was to make me look all lifelike again after a couple of months in a block of ice. I can tell you, taxidermy is very ticklish, his fingers got in all sorts of places. But it was all in a good cause – I gather humans spend lots of time getting themselves ready to appear at big events on red carpets. No pain, no gain as they say.
Some clever people say penguins are flightless. That’s rubbish, and I can prove it. I was to travel on a plane (my first flight I’ll admit it) from Falklands to Britain and my new home. But they were worried about me being on my own for such a long time (not knowing how to work the inflight entertainment systems and all that) so they got a nice man called Nigel[2] to sit next to me. He told me his staff had spent about a week organising for me to fly with him. I’m jolly glad they did, he was a lovely companion, very knowledgeable on his birds, but a dunce at Penguin Sudoko. I beat him on every game. Nigel was kind enough to come along to my launch party at Selborne on 17 March. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.
Nigel and I arrived at a place called Brize Norton and I was handed over for the next leg of my journey to a man who said he’d come “to pick up a penguin”. I thought that was a bit cheeky, but he told me penguins are much loved in Britain and that I was very special. We set off for Selborne for my big day.
You would have felt very at home on my big day. Lots of pictures of Antarctica and a fascinating collection of things from humans who have been here (remember that story you told me about that nice man Captain Oates that great great great great grandpa met wandering about the ice, muttering about being “some time” ?) And a lot of people standing around in a big huddle to say hello. I looked for the eggs between their feet, but couldn’t see any. Very cheered up to be told that, just like us, male humans are often left in charge of the youngsters for days at a time while the female humans go shopping….
A very man nice man, the Earl of Portsmouth, welcomed me by saying that he was probably the only person ever to have been asked to unveil a penguin. As he was pulling the wrapping paper off – we both nearly got enveloped in it – I had to remind to take care and remember that while he was only an aristocrat, I was an Emperor. But it was all done and lots of people told me I was, if not the first, certainly the finest and plumpest Emperor penguin ever to visit Britain ! You would have been so proud of me.
I also met my new godfather who had arranged it all. Professor Paul Rodhouse, from the British Antarctic Survey. I wish I could send him down to visit you all – what he doesn’t know about where to fish in the Antarctic isn’t worth knowing.
Everyone had a lovely day and I am kept busy (when no one is looking) keeping my plumage in good nick. After all, I am now the prize exhibit at the Museum and apparently people come to the front door demanding to see me ! That’s fame. I hope to sign my first movie deal in a few days.
Not The March of the Penguin, we’ve got a much better title – The Flight of the Penguin. Which reminds me. I think I’ve done with flying now, but the 9788 air miles on my account must be worth quite a bit of travel – perhaps a trip for two to 75.35S 26.34W ? Watch out for visitors ! But probably not as many as I’ll get. To contact me please talk to my agent.

Much love and happy fishing,

Aurora [3]

 


 

[1] Gilbert White and The Oates Collections welcomed its newest addition – an Emperor Penguin named Aurora – at a special ceremony on 17 March 2014 (202nd anniversary of Captain Oates’ death in the Antarctic.) The Earl and Countess of Portsmouth unveiled Aurora and guests included several members of the British Antarctic Survey, and Nigel Haywood, until recently Governor of the Falklands, together with many other friends and supporters of the Museum.

[2] Nigel Haywood, Governor of the Falkland Isles.

[3] Aurora was given her name by Emma Holford of Alton Convent following a competition.