Charles Darwin's insights during his travels on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s revolutionized the natural sciences. And his personal accounts of the journey, such as his encounters with Magellanic Penguins, tell captivating stories. As an experiment, Darwin stood between a penguin and the sea. The undaunted bird waddled directly into the young naturalist! Learn more about the Penguin Project and efforts to save penguins.
Darwin Meets Penguins
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote!
[Sound of a ship under way; waves]
Charles Darwin’s insights during his travels on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s revolutionized the natural sciences. And his personal accounts of the journey, such as his encounters with penguins, tell captivating stories.
While near the Rio Plata along the east coast of South America, Darwin wrote: “At this present minute, we are at anchor in the mouth of the river, and such a strange scene it is. Everything is in flames – the sky with lightning, the water with luminous particles, and even the very masts are pointed with a blue flame [of St. Elmo’s fire]. . . . Penguins, darting through the water, [leave] long trails of phosphorescence in their wake.” [More ocean sounds]
While on the Falkland Islands, Darwin – as an experiment – placed himself between a penguin and the sea. The undaunted bird, rolling its head from side to side, waddled directly into the young naturalist, pushing him aside. Darwin wrote, “This bird is commonly called the jackass penguin, from its habit . . . of throwing its head backwards and making a loud strange noise, very like the braying of an ass.” [Magellanic Penguin braying]
[Magellanic Penguin braying]
I’m Frank Corrado.
Braying of the Magellanic Penguins provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by C. Christopher.
Ambient wave by Kessler Productions.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2010 Tune In to Nature.org Mary 2010
ID# 053007jackass1-2KPLU penguin-01
Quotes from a letter to J.S. Henslow, from The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online; from Moorehead, Alan. Darwin and the Beagle. New York: Harper & Row, 1969; and from Darwin, Charles. The Voyage of the Beagle. Ed. by Leonard Engel. New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1962.