Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, June 3, 1916: “Penguin day!”

–from the diary of Thomas Orde Lees, one of the twenty-six men marooned on Elephant Island—

“3 June. Penguin day! No less than 115 penguins came up and no less than 115 of them fell victim to our ferocity. I have always volunteered to gut any number of birds of only Wild will get them. I therefore underook to gut my lot. They were collected in a great pile just outside the hut and just as fast as I gutted them I passed them into the hut where they were skinned, as it was too cold for the skinners to work outside.

“The act of gutting keeps the hands warm. The whole 115 were thus dealt with in about 1-1/2 hours. I am thinking of setting up in the poultry dealer’s line when I get home. All the stomachs contained large fish, a few of which were so recently swallowed that I put them aside for human consumption.

“When I entered the hut a gory sight and a worse smell met my gaze etc., but I was not prepared for such a frightful mess in which I found my bag. It had evidently been used to prevent the penguins from dirtying the pebbles. . . .”


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