9,788 mile Journey from the Antarctic:
Emperor Penguin and Chick Unveiled at Gilbert White’s House, Selborne
In her speech, Dr Rosemary Irwin, Chairman of Trustees, welcomed guests who included friends, partners and supporters of the Museum. Dr. Irwin thanked the Earl and Countess of Portsmouth, whose generous support enabled the Penguin to be prepared for the Museum by the Falklands Islands taxidermist, Steve Massam, and paid tribute to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). “BAS has been a wonderful friend and supporter to this museum for 40 years. And they didn’t bat an eyelid when we said we would love to have an Emperor Penguin to complete our Antarctic penguin collection.” Among the audience were Professor Paul Rodhouse, until recently Board member and Head of Biological Sciences at BAS, who oversaw the hugely complicated logistics of “Operation Penguin”, Caroline Lewis, BAS’ Logistics Co-Ordinator at the Halley Research in Antarctica, where the penguin was found, and Michael Dunn, Higher Predator Ecologist at BAS, who organised the penguin’s complicated paperwork for travel to the UK. “We have decided we should appoint Paul Rodhouse as our Emperor’s ‘godfather’ and are delighted that he has agreed to join the Museum’s Board of Trustees” said Dr Irwin.
Professor Rodhouse said he was only too happy to have been able to help – “I think the Selborne collection of penguins – Emperor, Adelie, Chinstrap, Gentoo, Macaroni and King – is probably the best and fullest collection of Antarctic penguins in the UK”. He noted that there was a direct connection between Captain Oates, commemorated at the museum, and Emperor penguins – “Cherry-Garrard, Wilson and Bowers made a special expedition from their hut in dreadful mid-winter conditions to gather 5 Emperor penguin eggs, three of which are now in the Natural History Museum.”
The Earl of Portsmouth, in his words opening the new exhibit, said that he would probably never do it again – “How often is one invited to unveil a penguin “. Commenting on the trip by Cherry-Garrard, Wilson and Bowers, he said “It shows total British dottiness to risk life and limb to collect 5 bird’s eggs”.
Among the guests at the opening was Nigel Haywood, until recently Governor of the Falkland Islands, who played a vital role in getting the penguin to the UK by offering to include it with his baggage on a flight home for leave.
The day was also cause for celebration for 8 pupils from Alton Convent School. As part of the on-going partnership with the museum the children took part in an art and naming competition for the new arrivals. Professor Rodhouse, a Member of the Cambridge Drawing Society, judged the art competition and Mike Dunn judged the penguin naming competition. The winners received their certificates and prizes from the Countess of Portsmouth.
Naming Competition (age group 5-11): Winner, Daisy Winn with the name “Pepper” for the penguin chick.
Naming Competition (age group 11-14: Winner, Emma Holford with the name “Aurora” for the penguin juvenile.
Art Competition Winner (age group 5-7): Ingrid Linge.
Highly Commended (age group 5-7): Saffron Hulbert
Art Competition Winner (age group 7-11): Anna Jakubowski
Highly Commended (age group 7-11): Emily Killing.
Art Competition Winner (age group 11-14): Poppy Hulbert
Highly Commended (age group 11-14): Genevieve Barrett
The partnership between the school and the museum aims to inspire the next generation of scientists, naturalists and artists, through innovative and memorable educational activities. Headmaster Graham Maher commented, “We look forward to our continued partnership, and are excited about the possibilities.”