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Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze?

When I picture snow, three images pop to mind almost immediately: snowmen, Christmas and penguins – and not necessarily all at the same time.

For what may have been the fifth time in my life, I’ve been witness to snow in South Wales that is deep enough to allow the building of a snowman. However, as exciting as this may sound, I didn’t end up making a snowman as I was at work during the day and by the time I was home the thick fluffy snow had changed to resemble diluted cold mud.

Nevertheless, on my lunch-break I boldly ventured outside and took these photos on my ‘phone:

Snow at Cardiff Bay 1 Snow at Cardiff Bay 2

Whilst outside I also noted how the British, when confronted with this unfamiliar white substance, suddenly begin walking like penguins. Now I don’t mean we all kneel down and commence tobogganing around on our stomachs (no matter how much Carsten Höller might like this to be true), but we all waddle like our legs are tied together. This amused me and also set me off on a train of thought about penguins, of which Wikipedia was a large encourager.

  • It is a well-known flightless bird, but it is less well-known that penguins are almost exclusively of the southern hemisphere (there are none in the Arctic!) and are oft misrepresented as residing exclusively in cold climes such as Antarctica.
  • Tux is the penguin mascot of Linux – an open source alternative to Windows and Mac’s OS X. I’ve recently been considering going exclusively Linux rather than sharing with Windows!
  • I’ve recently read ‘Death and the Penguin‘ by Andrey Kurkov – a dark, existential (and rather Kafkaesque) short novel about a children’s writer in post Soviet Russia who keeps Misha, a depressed King Penguin, as a pet in his small apartment.
    • In this story the protagonist is said to have obtained his penguin when the local zoo gave away the animals to whomever could provide for them – I’ve recently found out that this actually happened in Kiev.
  • March of the Penguins is a film/documentary that I rented late last year that was charming (despite the director’s obvious artistic license). Happy Feet is an animated film about a small, tap-dancing penguin… that I do not want to watch.
  • Penguins are myopic – or ‘near-sighted’ – just like me.
  • They can drink sea water and excrete excess salt in a mucus through their noses!
  • Homosexual male penguins have been documented using a stone as an egg replacement in the nest.
  • Yesterday a work colleague was telling me about a condensation-related fact that he read in ‘Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze?‘ – New Scientist‘s book devoted to questions they receive from readers.

So, as you can see, penguins have been popping up in my life more than is typical recently, and
they’re an interesting bunch; I hope this trend continues.


  1. Lucy
    Posted February 21, 2007 at 00:29 | Permalink

    i want to see happy feetsies…….

    you know you do too


  2. Lucy
    Posted February 21, 2007 at 00:29 | Permalink

    (dont post that, i just wanted to say it)

  3. Lucy
    Posted February 21, 2007 at 00:29 | Permalink

    will that be posted too?

    dammit chloe!


  4. Posted February 21, 2007 at 09:00 | Permalink

    Yes, yes and yes.