Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011



Tragedy occurred in the South Pacific last week when HAPPY FEET, the world's most famous penguin, was devoured by a shark.  Thousands of New Zealanders gathered at Frank Kitts Park, in Central Wellington, for a candlelight vigil. Their beloved, proud and fearless Emperor Penguin would flap his wings no more.  Even Prime Minister JOHN KEY declared next Wednesday a National Day of Mourning for HAPPY FEET.   "I can't take it" sobbed 51-year-old KATHY GILLIAND "He was a great penguin who gave some much yet took so little."

Sorry...once again we got a little ahead of ourselves here at the DUNER BLOG.  Let's start at the beginning.  It all began on an average morning last June on Peka Peka Beach.  A woman was walking her dog when she spied a strange blob rolling along the sand.  After closer investigation, she discovered it was a Penguin!  Amazing! How could a bird, native to Antarctica, possibly swim 2,500 miles and end up on a beach in New Zealand? The geography involved is staggering: This North Island beach clocks in at 41 degrees latitude...which is the same as Rome, Italy!  Overnight, the penguin (nicknamed HAPPY FEET after the protagonist of the 2006 animated movie) became a worldwide sensation.

Oops...there I go again...getting ahead of myself!  Anyhow, back to the lady on the beach.  She alerted wildlife officials who rushed the bird to a clinic to figure out what was wrong.  It seemed our feathered friend had a belly full of tiny rocks and shards of wood.  Having never seen sand before...he does live on the South Pole...HAPPY FEET thought it was snow!  Simply put, penguins eat snow instead of drinking water.  Anyhow, our avian hero underwent emergency endoscopic surgery and was slowly nursed back to health at the Wellington Zoo.  As expected, the whole recovery was meticulously chronicled by 24-hour webcams so penguin lovers worldwide could follow his progress.   Private donations of over NZ$30,000 came flowing in. Heck, HAPPY FEET even had a Facebook Page with 50,000 friends!

But there finally came a day when HAPPY FEET would be fully recovered.  The question arose: What fate would become to our beloved penguin?  Some wanted HAPPY FEET to stay in New Zealand as a permanent resident in the Wellington Zoo.  (The San Diego Zoo also made an offer.)  Others wanted him elected to Parliament.  Some wanted him to star in a new reality TV show.  Fortunately, New Zealand Wildlife officials stepped in.  They have a strict policy on such matters.  Despite HAPPY FEET's celebrity status, he was to be returned to the wild...just like every other rescued animal.  Our buddy was loaded onto an ocean freighter heading south.  On September 4th, he slid down a ramp and was released into the chilly Southern Ocean.

This is the last photo ever taken of HAPPY FEET.
Although scared, HAPPY FEET wasn't totally alone.  Scientists had inserted a tiny tracking devise underneath his skin.  For the last two weeks, they've been following his every movement.  And...unfortunately...the same lack of direction that plagued HAPPY FEET in the first place came roaring back.  Rather than take a straight path to the South Pole, our hero has been zigzagging in a most peculiar route.  Seemingly swimming against ocean tides, he  swam to nowhere.  On Friday, his device stopped sending signals altogether.  What happened to HAPPY FEET?

News reporters stormed into the offices of SIR-TRACK, the company responsible for the electronic device, demanding an answer.  A spokesperson released the following statement: "This leads to the conclusion that either the satellite transmitter has detached or an unknown event has prevented Happy Feet from resurfacing."  Of course, they are sugar-coating the god-awful truth.  Everyone knows HAPPY FEET was eaten by a shark.   Wildlife expert COLIN MISKELLY was a bit more on the level.  “Maybe, just maybe, he will surprise us all by turning up at a monitored Emperor penguin colony, where the transponder inserted under the skin on his thigh will remind us all that once upon a time, a long time ago, he was more than just another penguin.”

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