Penguin on a plane!

I haven’t talked about my penguin fetish, which began in 1964 when I wrote a term paper on penguins for my junior-high biology class.  I still have the paper:

And I’m still enamored with Antarctic flightless birds. Here’s the top of my hard drive:

So I was very jealous to see a video taken on a March 12 Southwest Airlines flight, showing a penguin that had been deliberately released in the aisle to get some exercise.  The flight was taking the penguin from San Francisco to San Diego to appear at a convention (he’s already wearing his tux).  Notice how the features of the penguin are described on the intercom.  This is why I love Southwest.  Would I had been on that flight!


  1. Kevin
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    So cute. That one looks like an African penguin — Spheniscus demersus.

    My parents collect penguiny things. It made holiday shopping easy for a while. Just find a unique penguin somewhere and you’re done.

    But then the pressure became intense to not repeat oneself.

    They probably have a couple hundred penguin collectibles.

  2. Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    “I have had it with these mother effin penguins on this mother effin plane!”

    I have no idea why, but my family always bought me tons of penguin stuff. I never particularly like penguins, I mean they’re cool like a lot of other animals. Just thought it was weird everyone else decided I like these things.

    • Dominic
      Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      You now know where to send them – to Prof or to Kevin’s parents!

  3. Grania Spingies
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    They are also a delicious biscuit, probably not available in Chicago.

    • abadidea
      Posted March 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      In America, a biscuit is a breadstuff which often contains meat or egg… so the implication I got was rather unfortunate…

    • Marella
      Posted March 16, 2011 at 4:48 am | Permalink

      Hmmm, that looks a lot like a Tim Tam, well known to be the best chocolate biscuit in the world.

  4. Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    What I find particularly fascinating is how they can be so comically awkward on land like that and yet such amazingly graceful and powerful swimmers underwater.


    • Observer
      Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Beyond graceful! One of my biggest thrills was diving with penquins in the Galapagos. They’re like torpedos buzzing by so fast you almost don’t see them pass by you. Their power has to be seen to be believed.

    • Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      They walk about as well as I swim.

      • Diane G.
        Posted March 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        Better than I do!

  5. Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    For awhile it was part of my job to clean the Woodland Park Zoo penguin pool every Friday. Fishy work.

    • JBlilie
      Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Woodland Park, brings back good memories of Seattle …

  6. Hempenstein
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    But do you have a penguin on your telly?

  7. Dominic
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I think you should submit the Penguins paper to Biology Letters.

  8. Stephen Gaffney
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    History (at least the youtube version by David O’Doherty) tells us that it was the humble penguin behind the irresistible force that pulled Ernest Shackleton to the Antarctic three times.

    • Dominic
      Posted March 16, 2011 at 3:43 am | Permalink


  9. Sili
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    My sister collects them too. I snapped some (bad) photos of a couple of them over Christmas.

  10. JBlilie
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Mine started with Fleetwood Mac.

    And: Fleetwood Mac

  11. NoAstronomer
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Conclusive proof: penguins *can* fly!

    (low hanging fruit)


  12. jesse
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Jerry I think it is really neat that you kept that paper all these years.

  13. bigjohn756
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Southwest is still a real airline. You know, one that provides normal airline services–for customers–instead of greedily sucking every penny from each and every passenger. When I was flying regularily…oh, never mind, that’s ancient history.

  14. Diane G.
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    My interest began in 1957 when they arrived in Portland with great hoopla:

  15. HP
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    “Interestingly written. Excellent references.”

    I think this blurb needs to go in your banner.

  16. Bob Joyce
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Penguins. I live in the town of Penguin, Tasmania. There are several colonies of the Little Penguin, Eudyptula minor, known locally as the Fairy Penguin along this stretch of coast. This is a beautiful part of the planet. (Having lived most of my 62 years here, I am, of course, biased)

  17. Posted March 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I hope to see the Emperor penguins in Antarctica one day if I can afford it.

    One of my better penguin photos:

    Or perhaps this:

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      I can see I’m going to have to set aside a few hours or more to browse your albums!

      • Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

        The more recent photos are better; better equipment and better skills!

        I’ve seen penguins shoot out of the ocean like missiles. I’ll try and post an image that shows a penguin just breaching the surface with the flow of water around its body.

        Those dinasaurs get everywhere!

        • Marella
          Posted March 16, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

          Your dinosaur photos are fabulous, and the whale tail too!

          • Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

            Thanks. That was a sperm whale. We had a pod under us but they were hard to photograph.

            Why do penguins make people smile? Is it the way they walk?

  18. Brian
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Just a query, are there other Antarctic flightless birds?

    Also, as noted above, Penguins are not just Antarctic, Galapagos, even inner suburban Melbourne.

  19. Helen Wise
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    My whole life, I’ve most envied people who knew what work they wanted to do when they were kids, like Dr. Coyne, who apparently knew quite early that he was interested in biology. Or is just my assumption about your interest?

  20. Blondin
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I have quite an extensive penguin collection, too.

    We used to see Fairy Penguins on Granite Island at Victor Harbour in South Australia.

  21. Trevor
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

  22. Ichthyic
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Permalink


    you have to come visit us in NZ, and I will take you to Jackson’s Bay on the South Island and show you Hector’s dolphin and penguins playing in the surf.

    I kid you not; saw this for myself the fist time I visited there.

  23. Ichthyic
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    these are the penguins at Jackson’s bay that I saw.

    even saved one from being run over by a car the night we camped there.

  24. Paul g
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 3:30 am | Permalink

    I don’t know what’s cuter, the penguin or Jerry’s report from junior high.

  25. Donovan
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Oddly enough, I was taught middle school biology by penguins. Penguins with odd beliefs about what happens after biology, but penguins who accepted evolution.

  26. Posted March 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    And I was just *in* San Diego! Missed that flight by *that* much… dang! The video, though, was a very big hit with the kids–they’ve also insisted that I turn on the computer and show it to their friends:-) The smiles are really good to see.

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