In today’s episode of Idiot Science: Penguins!
Starring: Dr. David Samuel Johnson, Ph.D. (psssttt, that’s me).
I was driving on Water Street in Newburyport when I saw something strange floating in the Merrimack River.
Are those penguins?
They were! My heart quickened. I happened to have my camera sitting in the passenger seat. I pulled over quickly, but not too close. I didn’t want to spook them. I nervously grabbed my camera hoping to get a picture before they jumped into the water.
Success! I snapped a few more pictures of the penguins – three of them on a piece of ice. I was so lucky!
A thought crept up like a cat on a mouse, “Wait a minute, it’s only 40 F. Not nearly cold enough for ice on the river.” I realized that the penguins were sitting on a piece of Styrofoam. I thought about what a great blog post it would be to write about how these penguins – these penguins of Massachusetts – had to use trash to float on. Oh, what a clever post this would be.
I snapped a few more pictures.
Those penguins aren’t moving. Are those…yup, those are fake.
Standing in a wind that slapped my cheeks red, I mentally slapped my forehead.
Of course they’re fakes. There are no Massachusetts penguins, or for that matter North American penguins. Penguins don’t have an address north of South America!
Someone had three plastic penguins loitering on a piece of Styrofoam. Sure, some people will be fooled. But I should know better. I’m a marine biologist. With letters and everything! And I know where penguins are found. I have railed against Coca-Cola in classrooms for their biogeographic inaccuracies for showing a polar bear and a penguin sharing a Coke. Penguins live in the southern hemisphere and polar bears in the northern! They would never meet. That a polar bear and penguin would share a Coke is biogeographically ridiculous.
That my first reaction was, “oh, it’s too warm for an ice” instead of, “uh, there’s no penguins in North America” is embarrassing. But I got fooled. And like a wildlife paparazzo, went for the cover photo before thinking about what I was doing.
Well done, Newburyport. Well done.