a very smart little man in an evening dress suit


George Murray Levick, in the early twentieth century, on Scott’s expedition to antarctica:

“When seen for the first time, the Adélie penguin gives you the impression of a very smart little man in an evening dress suit, so absolutely immaculate is he, with his shimmering white front and black back and shoulders.”

But the penguins are oversexed monsters, apparently, to such a degree that Levick didn’t include his observations about the species. From Slate:

While visiting Adélie penguins rookeries, Levick was shocked by the activities of what he called “hooligan cocks.” Males accosted and copulated with other males, females that were injured, chicks that had tumbled from their nests, and corpses. In desperation, some male Adélie penguins tried to mate with the ground until they ejaculated. Levick recorded these behaviors as aberrations from the norm of nature. “There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins,” he confided to his journal.


Joshuah Bearman has written about CIA missions, jewel thieves, deranged private investigators, aspiring Fabios, bitter rivalry among dueling Santa Clauses, and the metaphysical implications of being the world's greatest Pac Man player. His article for Wired became the movie Argo. More from this author →