The handwritten notebook of George Murray Levick, who was a scientist with the 1910-13 Scott Antarctic Expedition, has just been discovered and put on display. In it, he describes his shock at the sexual shenanigans of the penguins he observed, such as a male attempting to have sex with a dead female.
In the Guardian, Robin McKie writes that "Levick blamed this ‘astonishing depravity’ on ‘hooligan males’ and wrote down his observations in Greek so that only an educated gentleman would understand the horrors he had witnessed."
Levick’s paper sheds new light on a species that has been called the bellwether of climate change. McKie quotes Douglas Russell, curator of birds at the London Natural History Museum (where the notebook is displayed) as saying, "The (penguins) need pack ice from which to dive to get fish. When that ice disappears, numbers may crash–and we will have a clear warning that things are getting bad.
"The pamphlet, declined for publication with the official Scott expedition reports, commented on the frequency of sexual activity, auto-erotic behavior, and seemingly aberrant behavior of young unpaired males and females, including necrophilia, sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks and homosexual behavior. His observations were, however, accurate, valid and, with the benefit of hindsight, deserving of publication."