The elusive Massachusetts penguin

 

Newburyport, Massachusetts

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.

CLICK!

P1090915
The rare and elusive Massachusetts penguin.

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.

Then another.

One more.

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!

penguin_range
Penguins live here.
massachusetts_simple
Nowhere near here.

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.

 

coca-colas-super-bowl-social-media-touchdown-polar-bears-will-react-to-game-and-ads-live
Ridiculous. Biogeographically even! Harrumpf!  

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.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “The elusive Massachusetts penguin

  1. You know what makes penguins on an ice flow off Plum Island/Parker River NWR even more convincing as you drive by? Foggy conditions in late fall. I hit the brakes and was lucky I did not cause an accident. On a return pass, we all had a good giggle. I read later that the homeowner is an artist who enjoys surprising visitors.

  2. My family and I just had a debate over dinner in Newburyport because some of us were convinced they were real. We googled “are there penguins in massachusetts” and your article popped up first. Thanks.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s