Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Having Fun with Feathered Friends in the Falklands; TV WATCH Penguin Week Five

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Having Fun with Feathered Friends in the Falklands; TV WATCH Penguin Week Five

Article excerpt


OUR closest relation may well be the ape, and our best friend the dog, but it is a truth that bears no quibbling that our favourite beast is the penguin. In recent years, they have been extensively celebrated in documentary and cartoon. On account of their highly idiosyncratic methods of chick rearing, and generally odd domestic arrangements, penguins have been favourably compared to humans. As a mark of respect for their effortless sartorial elegance, the man about town dresses up in a penguin suit when hitting the nightspots for a spot of bubbly.

There is a definite affinity between man and penguin and I have a theory as to why this should be so. First, the penguin stands upright, and secondly, although a bird, the penguin cannot fly. Flap his flippers and fluff out his feathers as he might, there is no chance of this fellow taking off into the blue.

In this respect, we are just like the penguin.

It is true that we have a way to fly by means of the aeroplane. Antarctic myth has it that penguins are fascinated by aeroplanes to such an extent that they watch them so intently as they fly overhead that the poor creatures eventually lose their balance and topple over backwards. It is abundantly clear that if anyone wants to do a really good turn for the natural world, they should consider taking a penguin for a flight.

All of the foregoing was prompted by the start of Penguin Week, which will bring us closer to these curious relations. There could not possibly be a better presenter for it than Nigel Marven, because this man is perfectly in tune with his subject.

It would be quite out of character for him to get too close to the object of scrutiny, thus provoking a fatal beak thrust to the chest. Instead, Nigel sits among a throng of king penguin chicks as if he were reverently reporting on a fashion show featuring lots of very small Hollywood producers in fur coats.

Nigel is in South Georgia, hard by the Falklands, The boat that acts as home base for his gentle expedition is called Le Sourire, which Nigel helpfully translates as "the smile". Once this particular piece of information has been digested, then the rest is plain sailing.

Marven is the kind of man who, nowadays, does not get to be the front man on programmes like this. He has nothing about him of the faux hunk or pretend minx that has come to dominate this type of show.

Nigel is the kind of man you would expect to meet if you took a wrong turning and ended up in a bird hide. He would know the names of all those little brown jobs that flit around and normally avoid classification by all but the most committed.

Fortunately, we are not dealing with a huge range of birds here. There are only three types of penguin on South Georgia, and they all stand around handily for the camera as if waiting for a bus. …

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