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Oh Penguin, the Pipes are Calling

Exploring very inhospitable places was all the rage for nations at the turn of the last century and Scotland came on the scene Nov. 2, 1902. That day, the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition set out aboard the Scotia under the helm of William Speirs Bruce. They would be the first to explore the Weddell Sea and planted the first permanent research station, the Omond House, on the South Orkney Island of Laurie on April 1, 1903. But the most famous (or at least my favorite) event involved the expedition bagpiper, Gilbert Kerr. That a scientific expedition would bring along a bagpiper in full highland regalia is amazing enough but Kerr proceeded to “experiment” by forcing a penguin to listen to his performance.


The penguin was indifferent. Per their report:

Neither rousing marches, lively reels, nor melancholy laments seemed to have any effect on these lethargic, phlegmatic birds; there was no excitement, no sign of appreciation or disapproval, only sleepy indifference.

It was probably much more concerned about the stew that it would become in the coming days.

Read more about the voyage at the Glasgow Digital Library.
And the Royal Scottish Geographical Society celebrated the Centenary of the Scotia’s Voyage in 2002-04.

Image from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

-Andrew Steinitz


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