The Arctic is a bird-lover’s paradise. The bird cliffs that Iceland and Norway are some of the busiest, most bustling and breathtaking ~ above earth. Puffins, guillemots, terns and fulmars all grow in the north. Therefore why space there no penguins in the Arctic? and also did they ever live there? Although there space no penguins in the Arctic today, over there are plenty of fascinating connections between the polar north and also our beloved, tuxedoed sweethearts of the south.

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A question of evolution

“Everything currently in the world is the fruit that chance and also necessity.”

– Greek theorist Democritus

Penguins progressed in the southern Hemisphere, not in the Arctic. But why?

Here room a few possible reasons:

1. Penguins swarm on land

Penguins advanced to breed, nest, incubate and also raise their chicks in ~ ground level or in burrows. This works since they space threatened through very few (if any) floor predators. When penguins are delicate to skuas and also giant petrels paris overhead, in the phibìc they would have fallen prey to foxes, wolves, polar bears – maybe even humans!

2. Penguins room flightless birds

There room no flightless bird living in the Arctic today. Flight is an important defence versus land predators, allowing birds to escape attack and also nest high increase on cliffs.

3. Fly or dive?

Penguins space the most efficient underwater diving birds on earth, and one the the factors is the they sacrificed lightweight, versatile wings for stiffer, more heavier flippers. Flippers are no an excellent for flying, but they have allowed penguins come evolve right into true underwater specialists. Penguin bones are additionally thicker than most other birds, which make them too hefty to fly, but might help them to dive even deeper by do them much less buoyant.

Many seabirds can fly and also dive, but this entails compromise. In general, the much better they space at one, the worse they room at the other. For seabirds, there comes a allude where the benefits of flight aren’t precious the expense – specifically if girlfriend don’t need to worry around predators on land!

4. A compete edge

Being may be to take deep, lengthy dives gives penguins a compete edge as soon as feeding in the aquatic environment, which lock share through many, much bigger whales, seals and also birds.

Were there ever before penguins in the Arctic?

Yes! In 1936, a Norwegian polar explorer named Lars Christensen saw the potential because that an Arctic penguin population. The plucked nine king penguins from southern Georgia’s beaches and sent them north aboard the SS Neptune. Lock were worked out on the Lofoten islands, whereby they would be for sure from foxes and other land predators. Over the next decade, other species’ that penguin, including macaroni penguins, were likewise introduced.

Their existence in the Arctic to be short-lived, and also the last time they to be spotted remained in 1949. No one is certain where they walk or whether they controlled to reproduce, however for a brief time, a beautiful island in the Arctic played organize to a small population of penguins.

The penguin of the north?

The closest thing to a native Arctic penguin was the delightful pinguinis impennis, a great black and white bird, which ended up being extinct in 1844. More commonly well-known as the great Auk, this flightless seabird had a lot of in usual with the penguins we watch today. It to be agile and also graceful underwater and could dive approximately 1 km (0.62 miles) deep. It might speed come the surface favor a torpedo, bursting with the water and leaping onto absent shelves much above. Stand at around 75-85 centimeter (2.5-2.8 ft), that size retained it safe from all however the largest predators, like polar bears and killer whales.

The an excellent Auk was well known among sailors from the north. For hundreds of thousands of year it can be spotted throughout the phibìc Atlantic coast, from north Canada come Norway, Greenland, Iceland and also the Faroe Islands. Yet pressure from people hunting them because that eggs, meat, under – even specimens as they became increasingly rare – journey them come extinction.

When sailors from the north travelled to the south, they came across beaches spanned in black and also white seabirds. Lock couldn’t fly, but they might swim! castle reminded seafarers the the great pinguinis impennis, which is how they acquired their names: penguins.

Although the an excellent Auk was never a ‘real’ penguin, its legacy lives on in the specify name of our feathered friend in the southerly hemisphere.


Will I ever see polar bears and also penguins together?

While part scientists and also conservationists have considered settling polar bear in Antarctica, the cost and also logistics, and the threat this can pose for Antarctic ecosystems have actually kept the idea on the shelf. Because that now, the only ar you’ll watch penguins and also polar bears with each other is in a documentary or a children’s book! yet that doesn’t average that girlfriend can’t visit your far-flung homes and also learn how each of castle is uniquely adjusted to their organic environment.

Please contact our expedition Experts to find out an ext about our trips to Antarctica and also the Arctic. We’ll even aid make sure you book your pilgrimage to the ideal pole!

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words by Nina Gallo, Aurora Expeditions’ historian and also certified PTGA polar guide.

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Nina has actually been attracted to the polar regions since her very first otherworldly suffer of the midnight sunlight in 2002. Due to the fact that then she has actually spent time in much northern Canada, the Himalayas, the Alps and also deserts in America and also Australia, always seeking the end quiet, wild corners to explore. She feels extremely privileged to take trip to this places and shares she passions for the organic world, human being stories and adventure v all the wonderful civilization she meets. Nina is the writer of Antarctica, published by Australian geographical in September 2020.