The Shocking Depravity of Penguins

I heard this story on this week's episode of QI (series K, episode "Kinky").

In 1911, British naval officer and Antarctic explorer George Murray Levick joined the Terra Nova Expedition (aka, as it's probably more famously known, Scott's Expedition), which aimed to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Unfortunately, this expedition was doubly unsuccessful, in that when they reached the South Pole they realized that a Norwegian team had beaten them by about a month and, on the return voyage, they split into two groups, the Northern Party and the Western Party. All of the British explorers in the Western party died (though the Northern Party survived).

Luckily for Levick, he was in the Northern Party and made it safely back to the UK, and there was able to publish his work. Apart from reaching the South Pole, another objective had been to study penguins in their natural environment which, obviously, had been difficult to do. Levick was absolutely horrified to observe the mating habits of penguins and described their "shocking depravity", which contained "rampant homosexuality".

"The penguins also practiced necrophilia and paedophilia according to him, but it is now believed that the necrophilia was probably wrong and that the penguins could have just had sex with sleeping penguins."

So outraged was he by what he observed that he purposefully made his new and important research difficult to access: he wrote all of his notes in Ancient Greek, knowing full well that "only a gentleman would be able to translate it". The debauched content would be safe in the hands of a gentleman, as his motives were sure to be scientific and pure.

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