The global penguin – Part 9. Heading home, or heading east?

The global penguin – Part 9. Heading home, or heading east?

Curator of terrestrial vertebrates Dr Colin Miskelly tells the ninth instalment of the unfolding story of the emperor penguin that went where none had gone before.

Previous blogs on the penguin were posted between 23 June and 5 September.

Time to take the plunge! Photo: Lisa Argilla, Wellington Zoo & NIWA

It is four days since the world’s most famous penguin escaped down the stern ramp of the Tangaroa. After two months of intense scrutiny, you might think that he was slipping into the obscurity of being a speck in the great southern ocean, and the anonymity of being one of over 300,000 emperor penguins on the planet. No such luck! Thanks to the Sirtrack KiwiSat 202 satellite transmitter glued to his back, his every move is watched by millions of adoring spheniscophiles around the world. But that is hyperbole; the duty cycle of the transmitter has it turned on for only 7 hours per day. This means that for 17 hours a day he can swim wherever he likes without anyone telling him that he is swimming in the wrong direction (as long as he ends up further south when the transmitter turns on again).

The emperor penguin’s track for the first 4 days after his release. Image courtesy of Sirtrack

What does his track tell us after 96 hours? Overall, he has travelled about 100 km in a south-easterly direction, travelling at a rate of about 1.2 km per hour (29.3 km per day). But where would he have ended up if he had floated passively on the surface, allowing currents to carry him like inanimate flotsam? We have the answer to that due to the known movements of 30 Global Drifter Program buoys that have passed near Campbell Island (data from NIWA).

Campbell Island sits in the path of the mightiest oceanic current on the planet, far more massive than the Amazon River. Driven by strong westerly winds, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current south of New Zealand flows eastward at a rate of nearly 150 million cubic metres per second. This is about 150 times the water flow of all the world’s rivers combined.

Tracks of 30 Global Drifter Buoys past Campbell Island. Image courtesy of NIWA

On average, the drifter buoys near Campbell Island moved in an east-northeast direction at an average rate of 10.5 km per day. This means that if the penguin had not been actively swimming, he would now be about 42 km east-northeast of his release point. If passive movement due to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is allowed for, the distance that the emperor penguin has travelled by active swimming is approximately 91 km in a south-southeast direction at a rate of 1.1 km per hour (26.9 km per day).

If he keeps on this track and speed, he will reach the pack ice off Marie Byrd Land (between the Ross Sea and the Amundsen Sea) about the end of November. Will he find other emperor penguins there? Yes – as the attached map shows, there are two known and two probable emperor penguin colonies along this remote stretch of the Antarctic coast. The probable colonies have never been visited by humans; they were discovered by satellite imagery detecting faecal staining on the fast-ice, known to be characteristic of emperor penguin colonies.

Locations of emperor penguin colonies around Antarctica. Image courtesy of Barbara Wienecke, Australian Antarctic Division

This strong easterly drift also raises the question of where the peripatetic Peka Peka penguin came from. If he travelled as far east as he did north on his way to New Zealand, then it is likely that he came from one of the colonies in the Australian Antarctic sector, rather than from one of the cluster of colonies on the western side of the Ross Sea.

Previous blogs on this topic:

The global penguin – Part 1. How a lone emperor ventured into superstardom

The global penguin – Part 2. The young emperor penguin pushes the boundaries and is taken into care

The global penguin – Part 3. No latitude for error: a young emperor penguin a long way from home

The global penguin – Part 4. How to track a wandering emperor penguin

The global penguin – Part 5. The rocky road to fame

The global penguin – Part 6. Hitching a ride south

The global penguin – Part 7. The wandering emperor penguin enters the technological age

The global penguin – Part 8. Free at last!

For later blogs on this bird:

The global penguin – Part 10. It’s only a game

The global penguin – Part 11. How old was the Peka Peka emperor penguin?

The global penguin – Part 12. The final word?


  1. who knows that happy feet didn’t survive? maybe he is back to the penguins or will soon arrive there!

    positive thinking! give good wishes for the little one!

  2. Als ob die Menschen im Video, keine Viren und Bakterien mitbringen…

  3. I still do not understand the reasoning behind these actions. If he was potentially carrying the nz viruses and bacteria, then why not let him stay at the zoo? Was potential death the only alternative? Also, viruses can be systemic so what are the chances of him carrying the virus, returning home and infecting the colony anyway? It still seems to me a losing game of Russian Roulette which we humans often play thus pushing Mother Nature to her limit. The whole fiasco still represents aberrant thinking on the part of the professionals involved. I still believe that this beautiful planet would do very well without this species called human beings.

  4. happy feet, so sad and so destined to not get back to antarctica as the scientists pointed out- he had been contaminated by nz viruses and bacteria from the zoo. If he had he been flown home he would well have infected the prestine emporer penguine colonies and may have wiped them out. this was the reasoning to boat him only part way and let him go off the boat and hopefully not make it home and not polute the co;onies ….but it looks good for the $30K spent by the PR boys, especially as they release him with a transponder that is not even tied on! Glued with a $2 tube of instant glue. Not bad finallee for a $30,000 recovery exercise. Bit like putting 8 inch wheelbarrow wheels on our herculese aircraft and saying didnt we do well as they crash on landing!

  5. Katharina, that’s a beautiful video! And yes, I do still miss Happy Feet as well.

  6. lovely video about penguins…

    hopefully happy feet makes it there and hopefully no oil spilling is disturbing him and his friends:oil drilling; ship catastrophe as the newest in front of the plenty beach – new zealand – threating wildlife environment, whales, dolphins, sea lions…

  7. It’s been a month and I still miss Happy Feet.

  8. Hi Michele, thank you for the information, sounds really like good news! I also think Heppy Feet is getting used to the circumstances (after living in the zoo being in the wild again). have a good day.

  9. Katharina, sorry for the delay in answering. I tried to find the original article to no avail. In its stead, I’ve found a research study on what is called “naive, recently weaned elephant seal pups.” The lighter pups were around the size of 95kg, which is about what Happy Feet was when he was released. On page three of the report, it shows in graph form the tracking of these baby pups.

    Here’s the link:

    The most interesting thing to note is that they all pretty much just stayed in the ACC — there was no rush to leave the current or cross it in any way. If it’s true for a seal, it may be true for a penguin. HF may have no need to completely cross the ACC, as long as he has plenty of food, until he needs to reach land to moult or breed.

    And for these reasons, I don’t think that he died of exhaustion or from being eaten by an Orca. If you look at the tracks of the baby seals, they all had a very high survival rate.

  10. Hi we are following from Athens the news about this little guy,and hope
    very much that he will make it to find a colony.
    We are surprised why they did not keep him in New Zealand.
    We hope to read good news regarding Happy Feet.

  11. Hi Michele, that sounds interesting about the seals. Quiet bigger than a penguin, but anyway gives some hint. Do you know how long it takes an average (elephant) seal to get trough the ACC?

  12. Yes, Katharina, I think you’re right. Only the largest, strongest elephant seals crossed the ACC directly against the current. All of the rest angled their way through the current in a southeasterly direction. At some point, Happy Feet will make it through the ACC to the other side, but probably not at a point that we could predict.

  13. when happy feet hit the strong currents, he started struggling as he felt drawn to another direction. he got completely exhausted, could relax then a little bit and regain some strenght by letting go. he has quiet a hard time, but is doing fine so far. it is not in our hands, if he will reach his destination. but we can accompany him with positive thinking and good wishes or prayers that he will be “carried”.

  14. Yes, so it is. I have the same information. The scientists need a scanner to read the data.
    But first of all: they need Happy Feet…!
    Nobody knows the fine-tuning of operations/actions from the nice little guy 😉


  15. Thanks, Mara. Someone asked about the microchip that was implanted in HF’s leg. According to the blogs that Dr. Miskelly has already written, there are a number of monitored emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica. The scientists are trying to discern what the impact that climate change will have on the penguin population. When/if HF joins one of the monitored colonies, his chip will be read by one of the stations in the colony. If he settles in a non-monitored colony, then we won’t hear any more from him.

  16. Exactly, Michele. I think, it was time to let go him.


  17. And maybe they could have kept him aboard ship for another 2 weeks till they got to Campbell Island. Still, it was already taking 2 strong men to hold him still to feed him. And HF managed to get in a good whopping flipper hit and bruised one of the men. Dr. Lisa mentioned all of these things in her blogs.

    So, how would you have held him down for 2 more weeks while he was trying to get to the ocean? yes, I know the video showed him being gently pushed onto the ramp. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t want to go. He just didn’t like the ramp!

  18. Hello Jacquelyn,

    I´m not Dr. Argilla 😉 – but I try to answer your question.
    I think the South was not his aim directly. Perhaps the yellow route on the published plan was not exactly. This is my opinion only. I´m not an expert.

    Penguins left their colony and go to the ocean for some years. Happy Feet was swimming to South-East… and I expect, he was doing the right thing. Happy Feet knows better than humans what is to do and the best for him… he looks for his way home for himself.

    Best regards

  19. I’ve been searching and reading everything I can find on the ACC. Apparently Campbell Island is right smack dab in the middle of the ACC.

    HF was dropped off in relatively calm seas — calm for the Southern Ocean — and this gave him time to get his bearings and “sea lega” back before hitting the ACC.

    If he had been dropped off right by Campbell Island, he would have had no opportunity to adjust from being on land for 2 months to being at sea, because he would have been dropped right into the middle of the ACC. I don’t think that would have been such a good idea.

  20. Question: The Tangaroa apparently continued south to Campbell Island according to Dr. Argilla’s blog. Why could HF not have continued south with you to perhaps lessen the length of his swim?

  21. For Clay Nicholas

    if that doesnt work do a google search :-

    starting a blog

    while i have the key dont you just love this lady who released [shoved] him off
    the back of the boat microchip they want know

    so how are they going to check for that

    1] loads of scuba divers swimming with them down there armed with a chip reader

    2] walking thru thousands in there breeding colonies with a chip reader

    she really believes we are all window dummies doesn’t she
    wonder where the next insult to our intelegence will come from

    never mind she is having a great time watching the birds

    she wil have to go home sometime,i just hope the press are laying in wait when she does.

    in the meantime i bet the Russians treat this dear little soul
    with more compasion and think about whats best for him and not themselves

    catch you soon


  22. Clay, I was in the middle of a post and it has disappeared. Go to animals so I can keep track of your email address. This weblog is owned by a friend of mine who can keep track of this info until we can create our own blog. – Article – Putting a Happy Face on Happy Feet. I am also working with word press to start my own blog – Itchin to Bitch. There is one at every party, right? I am sure some of the previous bloggers will agree.

  23. Jacquelyn and Mara, others. I am not sure of whom is in charge of this blog but it is originally posted by Colin Miskelly under “Te Papas”. I’m hoping someone knows more about this than I, but I would like to set up a new blog right away that we can all sign up to, so that no one can pull the plug on us. We have not heard from Colin since the 10th of September, well before we knew the transmitter had ceased working. If they are that disinterested in talking to us, there is nothing stopping them from ending this thread. Does anyone know how we can create our own blog where it will be secure?

    Jacquelyn, pleases send a link to your article!

    Thanks to everyone.

  24. Thank you, amy….. great!


  25. Thanks Mara. I hope we get some answers soon. I am sure a lot of people are affected by this. I know I am going to write an article for my local paper on this event.

    Looking forward to more posts.

  26. Hi Jacquelyn,

    I think the blogs will be open for some (?) or many (?) days… because to many questions are open and a lot of people are carefull…


  27. Clay, I don’t know how much longer this blog can go on but I somehow feel that this communication has created a glimmer of hope that HF is still going strong. I guess as long as he is in our minds and “on the page” so to speak, we are keeping him alive. Like many others, I have shed copious amounts of tears and I think it is wonderful the love and concern shown by so many people all around the world. Where do we go from here? Difficult question. There really is no closure is there?

  28. See also: commentary 115 (Katy M. says…) > link blog = news…


  29. to Keith, Jacquelyn, Michele and others; I just want to say thank you for taking the time to voice these facts and frustrations on HF’s behalf. As I read how simple it would have been to keep him safe and “happy” – so many options ignored – and especially NO word from those responsible, I take some comfort in knowing that I am not alone. Shedding tears and pounding my fists on the table doesn’t help (much!) but hearing your voices does. Let hope that together we can force some answers, and at best keep a similar situation from happening in the future.

  30. It is possible, the responsible persons have no answers. Icily silence…
    I wonder why…!!!?


  31. First, let me say that my heart is with Happy Feet and that’s why I want so much for him to have survived. I did donate for his care.

    I have searched and searched the internet for any instances of marine animals crossing the ACC. It seems that the ACC is an “invisible fence” surrounding the Antarctic continent, and virtually unpassable. The only thing I’ve found so far are joint studies on oceanography and elephant seals.

    Elephant seals were fitted with satellite transmitters after they had finished their yearly fur moulting. 18 seals were tracked in 2004 and 2005. All 18 crossed the ACC; two of them crossed the ACC at an almost perpendicular angle, swimming against the current the entire way.

    One thing to note is that the transmitters remained fastened to their fur. And the other thing to note is that elephant seals are quite large and powerful. I will keep looking for any other evidence of animals surviving the passage of the ACC. In the meantime, my heart is truly broken at the thought of him dying of exhaustion in the middle of nowhere.

  32. I am in the UK
    all the wildlife hospitals and homes operate the following criteria
    before releasing a sick or injured animal or bird

    1] they keep a list of release sites
    2] the release sites MUST be known to have like species
    in the immediate area and thriving.
    3] the animal or bird must be totally fit to face the wild
    4] they have been eating properly on there own

    i havent seen any evidence that any of these boxes have been ticked

    as an for instance if they find an injured aniaml by the road side
    when cured and fit they dont toss it out into the nearest road
    and leave it to find its way home

    neither would they release a bird in the middle of central London
    because they know someone who happens to be passing that way

    how could they claim this dear soul was fit to swim in currents like that
    all he had was a swim in a pool about the same size as Bill Gates’s en suite

    i have also learnt that when at sea they are in groups,when its rest.sleep time
    not all will rest/sleep a few will act as look outs for preditors
    how was this bird supposed to do that when solo.

    as a last where is the evidence he actually swam to N.Z
    today we have been told where he would finish up in relation to his swimming speed and the flown of that strong current in an Easterly direction
    well if thats correct then if he swum North and the same criteria applies
    why wasn’t he found on the Chilean coast.

    why was the approaches of San Diego zoo turned down ??
    why was the offer to drop him off in February close to home
    turned down??

    and please no more releasing species down there because of desease
    i just saw 4 pictures of a group of humans walking in a breeding colony
    down humans dont carry desease ??or there cold weather clothing who are you kidding

  33. Many of us would like to know how his drop off location was determined Helmut. Would someone in the know care to comment? Why were other alternatives not considered.

    I think we all agree, it is time for facts not opinions.

  34. Why release him so far away.Sure that this is a great risk in many ways.

  35. I agree with you Keith completely.It is not the best life in the zoo but better then death in the middle of violent current. This poor penguin was betrayed by humans that he trusted and loved. Besides don’t birds reject the ones that were touched by humans.
    I know that many penguins face very harsh life this one intrtoduced himself to global community,we adopted him ; he became a pet of sorts and didn’t deserve to be thrown out like a piece of meat

  36. That human endeavors have been known to fail.

  37. I’m an interested amateur, not an expert. This is my understanding based on what I’ve read in articles on the internet: penguins in the water are very fast swimmers and divers and are able to evade predators in that manner; that the leopard seals which prey on penguins hang around the edges of the ice in order to catch fledglings, and adults as they enter the water. That Orcas are primarily fish eaters in the Southern Ocean, but also will eat adult penguins. That adult penguins have a 95.1 percent chance of survival per year. That baby penguin chicks have only a 15 percent survival rate since they are the ones that are preyed upon primarily.

    From these known facts, I’ve concluded that a penguin is more apt to survive in the open ocean than near ice floes. That a nearly adult penguin that has already swum from Antarctica to NZ would probably have the capacity to swim back. That human endeavors have been

    I’m including a link to an article that was posted on Our Far South web site. It states that juvenile penguins were tracked in the 1990s. So, I am mistaken that HF is the 1st one. Thought I had read that somewhere though.

    I understand your concern regarding the tracker attachment. And I don’t know what to say about that.

  38. I think HF either dislodged the tracker or pulled it off while preening himself. If even a small leaf lands in my hair I am aware of it si Im sure HF was very aware of something stuck to his feathers.
    Satelite tracking is a relatively new way of observing wild animals compared to the scientists who over the past many decades have spent months down in Antarctic regions and have observed the fact that young juvinilles do not return to the colonies as do mature birds. That is how we know of their habits.
    People make decisions which they think are the best at the time. Sometimes things go wrong. No one is to blame and nobody set out to harm the bird.
    We would all have loved to follow HF on his journey and are very dssappointed that it is not to be bu thowever I like to think he is alive and well and busy doing penguin things. Good luck HF

  39. Thanks Michele for your info… but I find the following statement contradicting. Now, by pointing it out I am just looking for a civilized discussion and hopefully learn more about wildlife tracking. Please don’t take it as being offensive.

    You said “HF was the 1st juvenile penguin to ever be tracked. And we know that juvenile penguins spend nearly all of their time in the sea.”

    How do we know that they are spend nearly all their time in the sea when no one is following them? As far as I know aerial surveillance cannot detect small groups of penguin in the sea. Scientist were able to estimate the number of penguin colonies/and numbers by fecal matter left on the ice in Antarctica (and these colongies has to be large enough to have enough poop left for aerial view). I would think that all poops are the same whether it is left by the adult or the young penguins…Scientists may be able to form an educated guess that the young penguins were staying in the sea but without data to support, it remains a guess.. not a fact. The young penguins may not go to the breeding colonies, but they may still scattered in small groups around where there are floating iceburges, can’t they?

    Now, get back to the point about the GPS feather attachment issue. It is not child’s play that the person who is performing the GPS attachment could choose whether they use less glue on HF or perform it any other way.. There should be an established protocol on what should be done. Individual cases varies, that’s why we (or the scientist/tracking companies) need to find out the possibilities of detachment for valid scientific data.

  40. Now this is an interesting line of inquiry — the transmitter detaching. HF was the 1st juvenile penguin to ever be tracked. And we know that juvenile penguins spend nearly all of their time in the sea. I read Sirtrack’s website on the Argos tracker, and it has been used on whales and seals. Whales do not have feathers, neither do seals. I would venture to guess that would make a difference in comparing the data. Adult emperors have been tracked, but they pretty much stand in one place for 4 months of the year, and don’t spend nearly as much time in the strong currents of the ocean.

    In attaching the transmitter, the vets had to be careful with HF’s feathers since it is the feathers that keep him waterproof. So, I’d rather have the transmitter fall off then risk the animals vital weatherproofing. And I’m sure they felt the same way.

    And don’t forget, he swam the entire way from Antarctica to NZ, as best we know. He’ll make it home again.

  41. Some people do not like others challenge the “experts/authorities”… Then there are some “experts/authorities” who don’t like to be challenged.

    Actually, someone asked a valid question regarding the occurrence of GPS/tracker being fallen off the animal of interest especially concerning marine life in this situation. It is real about the validity of the scientific data that using GPS as a tracker. For example, if you have a group of 10 penguins you attached a GPS to (and your estimated time frame of tracking is 10 months till it is expected to fall off the host). During these 10 months, only 2 trackers were still emitting signals, do you make the conclusion that only 20% survival? Or, if you know the statistics of GPS being falling off penguins, let say, 50%… Then this 20% survival would become 70% survival (or less than 70%, there other more complicated factors in play that should be measured and used as a control). So it is important to find out the rate of transmitters fallen off the host in terms of strict scientific sense for valid scientific data. I would expect the experts got those numbers?

  42. Well Toni – that’s clinical. Where are all the rest of the relevant facts in your brief diatribe? By the way, Happy Feet at age 4 is a fledgling, not a fully grown adult. You have to agree that he could at least have been transported a little farther south so as to avoid treacherous ocean currents. That’s really what people are concerned about – where he was re-introduced into the ocean.
    No one is criticizing Colin’s good work, just this particular decision. Even professionals are not right all of the time. If we fail to be concerned and protect other wild animals, there probably would be fewer in existence than at present. Humans are the problem and at the same time the solution.

  43. Toni, I ditto your comments

  44. Good grief Jacquelyn! GET A LIFE and try, just try to know what you’re talking about before spewing. Is it the 15 minutes of fame you need? Well times up, sweetie. Do a little research. Open a book. Geez anything but criticize.

    RUN Colin!!
    Don’t let the idiots get to you. Job well done. We needn’t tell the emotionally unstable that there is an international agreement that says no animal can be taken to Antarctica and released to prevent introducing disease or pests. Oh Jacquelyn, you scamp, I can hear you now, “Well they could of made sure he didn’t have any………. yada, yada…… ad nauseum.

    1. Wild bird
    2. Home….. HOME is in the wild wicked southern ocean.
    3. They healed him completely! Fattened him up!
    4. And then took him 800 miles south where the food was plentiful.
    5. And SET HIM FREE!!!!!!!!!

    Now everyone go to bed and stop harassing the good doctors who are already struggling to save more seabirds. BTW Thousands of Prions have wrecked and died. They’re struggling to save a few hundred. MOVE ON!

  45. Clay, Sirtrack have been doing for this for over 25 years and in certain cases the transmitter may not stay attached. It does not mean they had no idea what they were doing. The ocean is where Emperor Penguins spend most of their time.

    Thanks Jacquelyn – good points. But I do not think it was a wrong decision.

  46. I think it is time to let common sense prevail and really examine the facts. Animals suffer every day at the hands of humans. It is up to those of us who care to try and change this. Sometimes people make the wrong decisions. I do believe this was one of them. Whether it is Happy Feet or Andre the Turtle or elephants in Kenya who are being killed in sanctuaries, we as humans are failing the animal kingdom dismally. Don’t confuse nastiness with justifiable anger and disappointment. If and when Happy Feet appears miraculously back to the safety of his colony, I will be the first to apologize.

    Good question from the last blogger. Why was it ignored? Explanations are required people!

  47. If they couldn’t figure out some glue and a small transmitter, that leaves little hope that they understood the penguin and a massive expanse of ocean.

  48. What ever happened with the offer (and full article on the website) on OURFARSOUTH that would have taken him all the way to Antartica in February? Why was that ignored?

  49. Wow, I cannot believe all the nastiness that this has generated in the last few days.
    Jacquelyn I am a New Zealander and I find your comment “the cruelty that was perpetrated on Happy Feet in the name of science is unfathomable” very offensive. He was nursed back to health by very caring professionals who always wanted the best outcome for him. Why is this so different compared to Andre the Turtle who was nursed back to health in America for 1 year and after been released was found dead 3 weeks later. Is anyone up in arms over this. No! HF would not have lost his instincts because he was only at the zoo for 2 months. He had constant health checks to make sure he was ok to go back to the ocean. The ocean is his home. I feel so sorry for everyone involved with Happy Feet because of the horrible comments of certain people who seem to think they know it all!

    Just because his transmitted is not working does not mean that his gone. Did anyone really expect the transmitter to say on with glue in such conditions.

  50. Dear Jacquelyn,

    I thank you for your comments, as they mirror mine completly. I have been too angry to leave an intllegible reply yet. Although I am quite sure the Wellington Zoo does some great work, I hope the zoo is inundated by everyone contributing to these blogs and tweets (especially NZEmperor) with our complete dissatisfaction with their handling of this helpless penguin. There were so many options that would have guaranteed is saftey and long life. The offer from Sea World with the only existing habitat for Emperor Penguins in the Americas was perfect. He had already survived his greatest miracle by getting to NZ in the first place. The scientists then tossed him into the ocean too far North (in the strongest Eastern current on Earth), in a weakened state, expecting the impossible.I too am insulted by their use of their choice of words “escape”, “bid us good ridance”, “he couldn’t wait to get away from us”, as though it was his choice to be given a death sentence. I also agree we all deserve an explanation by those responsible.The less we recieve from them is only confirmation that they realize and acknowledge their selfish and deadly mistake.

  51. I am sure I join the multitudes of people who are heartsick over this incident. It should never have happened in the first place. Perhaps if the people who contributed money towards Happy Feet’s welfare had a say in his future, things would have turned out differently. But no, we listen to the so called “experts” even when deep down in our guts we know they are wrong. The San Diego Zoo is fabulous and they were willing to pick this little bird up and place him in their penguin sanctuary to be with other penguins. Sounds better than dying to me. I will never think of New Zealand the same way again and the cruelty that was perpetrated on Happy Feet in the name of science is unfathomable. I agree that he probably died of exhaustion. What they were expecting him to do was ridiculous and I am somehow wondering if it morphed into a science experiment. Those involved should be ashamed. They certainly do not represent any of the animal welfare groups I am aware of. Of course they had to operate on him and care for him. They stood by while he ate sand and malingered on the beach for six days near death, while the world watched. His rehabilitation was short lived and he was sure great for revenues for the zoo. Whoever made this reckless decision should step forward and explain. The world needs and deserves some finality. Happy Feet will never be anonymous – we gave him a name and the media enabled him to enter the hearts of millions. It will be a cold day in hell before people forget this one. Oh and by the way, he didn’t “escape” the hatch on the boat into the water, he was gently “nudged”.

  52. Mary i entirely agree with you these wonderful birds are never seen North
    of 60 degrees South,yet the do this at 52 degrees South leaving him to swim
    all that way across the strongest current in the world.
    i am firmly in the camp of those who say he never swam there in the first place
    so could never have got back.i suspect he died of exhaustion in viwe of the fact he covered a very small distance during his last hours

    either take him all the way back or place him in a zoo,the zoo is not the best
    but its better than death.there are loads of different penquins in zoo’s,one more wont hurt surely

  53. I cannot help feeling like that the penguin was to some degree the victim of some individuals who craved their own time in the limelight.

  54. Does anyone have more information regardin Colin Miskelly,s comment “And 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.” Why can’t that transponder be tracked now?!!

  55. poor animal 🙁 ….those responsible should expose without protection, food and water in wasteland …

  56. But he is home. The sea is his home until he has to breed on the ice. Sure he didn’t want to go down that ramp — it was scary looking. He doesn’t have to make it anywhere for 4 more months. He can meander to the south as he wishes. And I don’t think the zoo would have let him go if they thought he was too weak. They could barely hold him down on board the ship to feed him and that was with 2 strong men trying to keep him still. I think he will be fine.

  57. I agree with Margie (#76). All of our hopes are up for this little guy. Common sense tells us that for him to land on the beach in NZ is not natural. Secondly, his radar is off. Next, he was stressed from the operations and maybe did not have time to recoup and was too weak for the long journey home. No detection for 4 days now. What concerns me was the msg. from day 9/8 that he did not travel far and just lingered in one place. He was in trouble then. He was not ready for his journey and should have been taken to a zoo. It was so heart breaking to see him just pushed off the boat when it looks like he did not want to go. All we can do at this point is pray to God that he makes it and does not suffer along the way. Shame on them for sending him offf like that.

  58. I agree Mara. Everyone needs to send HF positive energy. Swim south, swim strong HF. You are in our thoughts and prayers!

  59. Happy Feet is probably enjoying a beautiful Aurora Australis 😉
    I hope the KiwiSat can be adapted, so the signal won’t be disturbed anymore. If not, we’ll just have to wait til the storm is over.

  60. I can not wait longer. I am sending Happy Feet a lot of positive energy…….
    Everybody can do this.


  61. Chenoa,

    we’ve been on twitter as much as possible, that’s our most active channel.
    Really there hasn’t been any news other than the realization of magnetic storms. We should have been aware of that sooner, apologies

  62. Hi Michele,

    thanks. We retweeted about solar flare as soos as @robert_spooner made us aware of it. I’m going to ask WXTiles whether they can provide a solar activity layer, since NOAA also provides it, that’d be cool!

  63. I do think the NZ community is aware of the keen interest in Happy Feet. However, I don’t think Sirtrack and their employees expected a major solar storm. The fact that they didn’t answer our tweets and emails immediately may be due to the fact that it was the weekend in NZ and they are not required to provide a response 24/7 and they may just not have known what to say about the data blackout. Why say anything if you can’t be sure?

    In my heart, I do believe that Happy Feet is just fine. He was released in appropriately cold waters, that are teeming with fish and minimal predators. There’s no real reason to believe the worst yet.

  64. Unfortunately, ‘expectation’ was created by all of the media hype surrounding HF’s recovery and release, and everyone bought into it. There’s nothing so irresistible to humans as the innocent hero’s journey….

    The reality is, life provides no guarantees, and the ‘experts’ are not infallible. We will never really know the truth of HF’s fate, so perhaps it would have been more responsible of his keepers had they not made the tracking a public spectacle in the first place…

  65. My gracious…let’s be thankful that HF has increased awareness and interest in furthering our knowledge and understanding of the natural world. He is exactly where he should be, doing what he needs to do. His adventure was not meant to be a movie with a happy ending filmed to coincide with our reaching the bottom of the popcorn box. Read the good Dr.Miskelly’s blogs with patience. Be open to learning ,not judging. I believe we’re all in for the happy ending we wish for ,but if not I’m grateful for all that will have been learned .

  66. I agree, Kathy…

    For over 2 months this penguin was subjected to intense scrutiny, including a 24 hr web cam, a parade of people posing to have their pictures taken with HF, and then all of the media attention at his release.

    So why the information black-out? Why no comment from the Wellington Zoo? None from Sirtrack…It’s the weekend and no one is there? give me a break!

  67. I’m assuming you mistook my point. Donations were just one part of people’s support for HF’s rehab back to a healthy life. Everyone was hopeful during his progress. There were updates back then. Now that he’s in the ocean and there are some issues, possibly due to the satellite. Even if the authorities don’t have the answers now or ever, just checking in saying so periodically will be better than no communication at all. Nothing is perfect and this is not Disney.

  68. Gretz Says:

    9 September 2011 at 12:18 pm

    “I am not well versed on the subject but my understanding is that there is an agreement by all countries involved in antartica not to bring any wildlife to antartica- so as not to introduce new diseases to the area.”

    I am not well versed either … don’t have the data for how many km of ocean swimming, at what temperatures, it really takes to de-contaminate an Emperor Penguin…. or an eco-tourist or penguin researcher. : ))

  69. Gee … lots of negativity around here. I don’t get it. So you donated money, well that’s great! And now you want to get value for money …. well, you can’t. There’s no money back guarantee, and you can’t complain at the customers service desk about failing satellites, lack of information or indifferent employees. This is real life, it’s not Disneyland!

  70. Toni….. This is Te Papa’s Blog, Doesn’t matter who. This whole event revolving around HF was promoted to the world and now, it seems, many around the world are still watching. Many donated on his behalf to get well. Up until the last few days, the various sites did updates and encouraged participation on their walls. Now there are issues and the communication from them all but drops. They may be busy, but it’s only fair to at least address people’s concerns. That did happen today. I really think they had no idea how many people would take such an interest in this little bird’s welfare, as well as how they are reacting to what is happening now.

  71. The satellit wasn`t send signals because sun flares… – o.k.
    4 days are a long time and nobody has correct informations where he is….
    He was swimming to east in the first time… maybe the little bird is in the near of South America because he want to visit an other continent…? The surprise would be perfect.

    I hope too, that we`ll get updates soon.


  72. I hate to put a damper on all the good wishes and prayers that have come Happy Feet’s way, but I think, realistically, we have no idea where he is or whether or not he will ever make the journey home. This whole event has everyone sitting on the edge of their seats. No one wants a happy ending to this story more than I, but the way it has been handled has been beyond disappointing. In spite of all the blogs and forthcoming information how many people really believe this will turn out well? This is not nature taking its course. Nothing about this fiasco is natural. A penguin walking the beaches of New Zealand is not natural so why would we ever expect a naturally positive outcome once humans imprinted the situation. If I am incorrect and he makes it home, it will be a miracle of nature, one I know we are all praying for. And I do agree with a previous blogger. Where are all the animal and wildlife support groups? Thought the Sea Shepperd might help.

  73. Our blogger? Our blogger?? Seriously?
    Do you mean – Curator of Terrestrial Vertebrates, Dr. Colin Miskelly?
    Or Dr Lisa Argilla, veterinary science manager at Wellington Zoo?
    Folks, these are incredibly busy people and they have been gracious enough to keep us informed. They deserve some respect. BTW, Colin, you look awfully cute next to HP! NO wait. Respect. Sorry. But the picture is adorable;)

  74. Thank goodness for The Far South Web site, now we know what has happened it will stop all this negativity

  75. hi colin
    just wondering if you know if they can fix the satellite or swap to a new one ?
    thank you for all your information so far

  76. Although I must add, they’re saying the interference has been going on the last 4 days. I wish they would have brought that to our attention when they first knew. I think they underestimated how many people would follow and care about this bird.

  77. Hi Chenoa, Thanks for your post. However, I can’t tell who is representing “Our Far South” discussing the satellite issues. I’ve seen a lot of names, but someone needs to specify that they’re representing them. Maybe I missed it. Where’s our blogger? He could answer.

  78. It’s great that Our Far South has FINALLY responded with very pertinent information!!!!!!!!
    I only wish they had offered this information as soon as it became obvious they were having problems due to the solar flares. It would have saved many people a great deal of angst.
    Looking forward the the next blog.
    Cheers to Happy Feet!!!!!!

  79. @ chenoa

    Thank you for this information……


  80. I`m confused and I have a heavy heart….. Where is little happy feet…? Where is he swimming…? Is he sleeping…? Is the fishing…? Is he dead or tired…? Is he travelling by boot…?
    I don`t know. I can`t find the latest information about his way home. Is the information channel of GPS impaired…? His last position isn`t up to date.

    Happy feet is a little brave penguin and I hope, it will not come to a sad end…..
    Hope is the last to die….


  81. Hey, folks…Our Far South website has posted an update stating that the satellite tracking HF has been DOWN due to solar flares. Hope that this is an accurate assessment!

  82. When can we expect the next blog?

  83. happy feet is a very brave penguin if you ask me but it was kinda harsh to just push him the boat.

  84. If you go to the NOAA website, there is a section for Space weather — who knew? — and it appears that this weather is affecting the satellite. It’s supposed to last for 4 days according to a Tweet on the SirTrack website.

    So, if everything holds to previous norm, Happy Feet will pop back into view further southeast than the last reading –since he’s probably following that ocean current somewhat.

  85. I really wish one of the many worldwide wildlife organizations had offered to just fly the little guy home.

  86. I hope you are right Kathy, I am just SO worried about Happy Feet since he got lost in the first place he is obviously a sweet but “directionally challenged” penguin. If he makes it all the way home, it will be such a motivational story… if not, so many people will be devestated. I just really hope he makes it.

  87. People did the best they could. He was given another chance. That’s all we can hope for.

  88. i think he’s fine and on his way home. Suddenly it’s like an “obsession” watching his journey and i hope, we will get updates soon. But even if not, i’m sure, he will make it-also without us!
    Take care, Happy Feet and Thank you!

  89. Oh the suspense is killing me! I am SO worried about Happy Feet. Next time someone finds a lost pengin, just take him to Sea World, CA where he can live the rest of his life safe with a belly full of fish! 🙂

  90. Colin….Someone has suggested that solar activity/space weather over the last couple of days could be causing signal blackouts and/or interference with the Sirtrack transmitter….is there anything to this?

  91. Margie you said it well!!!!(post 76).
    It is very hard to be both logical and emotional at the same time for Happy Feet. (and yes – that was an extremely heart-wrenching video of him ‘hurtling backwards’ into the sea).
    My mind tries to reassure my heart.

  92. I agree with a lot of the sentiments expressed in these comments. I worry that as a result of his rehab, his endurance level dropped and he just doesn’t have the strength to stay alert and survive. I understand that he doesn’t need land but being alone is not ideal for him … Don’t most penguins live in small groups? Safety in numbers and all that? I realize that keeping him in captivity would not have been fair to him but that video of him hurtling backwards into the ocean was heart-rending. It just feels like we should have been able to do more. Saying this is how nature works doesn’t make accepting it any easier. So much attention was brought to this little guy and the public’s immediate and deep attachment to him should have been expected. Maybe we should have been warned that his chances of survival after release were not good so his lost signals wouldn’t have been so devastating to so many people. I know that there are 300,000+ penguins but we didn’t KNOW those penguins. We feel like Happy Feet is ours because we watched him daily and fell in love. No one should be surprised at the level of fear for him, or for the anger at what appears to be his total abandonment in the middle of nowhere.

  93. Talk about helicopter parents 😉 The web breeds impatience indeed.
    It’s a single penguin, healthy and in its element, all thanks to the experts.
    None of our business what it’s doing daily as long as it got a good second chance from the wise intervention back at the beach, when I seem to remember reading its sandy dire straits were interpreted initially by us know-nothing bystanders as nothing to panic about.

    Maybe an even longer time between official fixes would be appropriate to help panic merchants to chill a bit. No offence intended to Sirtrak, but the advertising benefit would surely be just as much with a weekly update as a daily one?

    Good luck Happy Feet.

  94. I gather this is something we civilized humans dont know anymore and therefore can not deal with: wildlife. HF does what he wants to do. He is not remote controlled! Just because we mean that he is to go immediately south does not mean he thinks so. He is just enjoying himself. God takes care of him, i am sure. Keep on going, littleone. The world is with you.

  95. Go Happy Feet!!!!
    Our prayers are with you for a wonderful adventure!

  96. NZ is 18 hours ahead of us – so hopefully you will be able to post good news when it is still Sunday here!!!
    It is somewhat truly amazing with the global concern for the little fellows’ welfare, that the folks at Sirtrak are not working on the week-end (at least partially).
    It is so reassuring to hear all the variables from Dr. Miskelly re why we may not be receiving data currently!!!!!! (must think positive).
    (It still doesn’t quite alleviate the nasty fear that refuses to quite go away).
    Lets keep all our fingers and toes crossed.

  97. Greetings from Southern California. I am certain HF will be OK. We all need to be patient as the little guy makes his way.

  98. Folks! Take a chill pill. You trusted the good doctors when you could see HP. Why think they suddenly don’t know what they’re doing? It doesn’t help to spin wild ideas about what has happened. Read the TePapa blogs (especially #9 and Paragraph 34 above) and learn something about these birds. Good grief, now people not only have “assumed” HP is dead, they’re coming up with wild ideas about his horrible death that are either impossible or 1 in a billion. TRUST THE DOCTOR. He knows soooooooooo much more about where HP is, and what he’s doing (swimming free). Love to everyone who cares, but relax and try not to insult the experts. They carefully put him in a spot in the ocean that was best for his survival. Think… ANTARTICA! Wild, frozen, uninhabitable for humans (except for a few researchers). There are no airports, and ships can only get near it during a few months. Anyone remember the research doctor in Antartica who got breast cancer and had to treat herself because there was no way to get to her at that time? It isn’t like shipping him to Miami. His home is in the sea; the cold, rough southern ocean sea where there are massive snow storms and huge wave swells. THAT’S his home, and he only puts his happy feet on ice when it’s time to do so. Let the guy play in the snow, do backflips over the waves and dive for food – where Argos can’t track him. It’s where he feels most comfortable. I do love that so many people around the world care so much. We need the unity. Tell your children he’s fine because he is.

  99. Look at the last two Positions at sirtrack and the Distance between 20:11:22 and 20:11:51 … about 500 meters in round about 30 sec. Emperor pinguins swim about 8-9 km/h and not about 60 km/h. Please give a comment.

  100. Why was he wandering around in a small area in the last few day? Was he died?

  101. Many thanks Dr. Miskelly for your explanations. I hope HF can make it to rejoin his colony. If this is not to be, I am sure you and others like you will have learned much more about the Emporer Penquins from his adventures, Perhaps helping many more in the future.

  102. It may be true that he was bycatch from a fishing boat and dumped near NZ. That would explain how he got so far north without turning around on his own and heading back south. That actually makes me feel better since it means that he does have normal penguin sense of direction and will head home!

    He has been given excellent care to recover, and he has a strong will to survive. We all became addicted to “seeing” him via the SirTrack system, and for the first few days, he was probably overjoyed just to be back in his proper element. Now he needs to swim in earnest, and the weather down there is wicked with the waves, current and wind. So, we’re not going to be seeing the tracks like we were before. He’s alive. He’s not in the belly of some whale. Dr. Miskelly is right. We’ll be seeing more tracks soon enough, but we need to be patient.

  103. Hello, here is Oli from Germany, my Family and I hope that this cutie Bird find his way home !

  104. All this emotion was so predictable! I too want this penguin to do well, but if he had been a little stranded, sick orca – rescued and nursed back to health then released to try to find his pod in the Southern ocean – we would be cheering when he caught a penguin to keep his strength up….

  105. useless exposed…. middle of the ocean, alone 🙁

  106. Poor Animal. He will dies….

  107. Hey Canadians who are upset, chill please and have faith………this is a wild bird and not a pet companion animal. Whilst we all have an emotional connection with HF and want to see him thrive he is a wild bird who the experts have advised what should happen to him in regards to his release, I am confident they know his needs more than we do. To do what YOU feel is right would only serve to make you feel better and would not necessarily help HF or his ‘colony’ (A plane ride to either the US or Antarctica we were advised would kill him & taking him direct to Antartica risks his ‘buddies’ through possible introduction of disease). We must remember we have to do what is best for HIM, his colony mates and environment to ensure longevity for the species….I for one am anxious for his wellbeing but also pleased he has been given the best chance a life in captivity is not good for a wild animal

  108. I will trust Colin and his expertise and try to be patient. And, y’all, Happy Feet is a penguin, not a pet! He needed to be free to make his own way home. The Wellington Zoo did all they could to help him recuperate and gain enough strength to get back in the water, so it’s up to him now. We can’t control what happens to him, and we shouldn’t even try. We can only wish him well.

  109. Perhaps he lost the GPS? If there’s no more signal we will never know.

  110. Wha are you so negative guys????
    Happy is having weekend as well and do not want to be disturb by you ”

    I hope he is in perfect shape and happily enjoying his freedom!

    Good luck little bird!!!

  111. So, it does look like HF is a goner. RIP Happy Feet.


    Emanuele Ziglioli (@ZiglioNZ) Says:

    10 September 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Hi Colin,

    have checked on Argos, no readings at all, not even Class A or B. Very sad

  112. I think the NZlander has done a very poor job in handling HF’s situation. HF was not rehabbed properly (IMHO) to brave the wild evn’t in the southern ocean. Specifically, he was only allowed few short swims in a pool before his release during two months of his recovery. These few short swims definitely will not prepare him physically for his long trip south in the stormy southern ocean.

    Secondly, emperor penguins are social animals that require their peers to hunt and stay alive by taking turns to keep an eye on predictors while resting (just like all other animals in the wild). HF was able to make it once to NZ does not mean that he could make it to south again all by himself. We do not even know if he had started out with a bunch of other penguins and end up on only him surviving the trip to NZ. Dropping him off so far from the south would make it very hard to find other penguins to join the pack. If these NZ scientists already know that majority of the penguins do not venture north of the 60 degree longitude why not dropped him off at 60 instead of at 52 degree?

    I am heart broken that if HF didn’t make it. Heart broken because he was not prepared better for his trip.

    Jess, Canada

  113. @51 Mel: This bird lived 3 to 4 years a pinquin live. There are 100.000 off this kind of pinguins ! they live a hard live… but they are adepted to that kind of live. Do you care for his family? They are fare more important than happyfeet. But I wish him al the best… nature is nature and not always nice and cudly

  114. Good morning and thank you, Dr. Miskelly, for sharing your special know-how with us. I am watching and praying from Switzerland. God bless Happy Feet and all people of good will for the guests on this earth.

  115. Sorry, my english ist not so god. I agree with all people all over the world caring about this little guy and I wish him all the best !
    Viele Grüße an alle Tierfreunde
    aus Berlin (Germany)

  116. While I appreciate and I am trying to reason with the scientific facts…I dont care for it…in my a human…I wish a boat could go out to collect him …find him…people did not like the fact he was just put out in the middle of nowhere so suddenley Im sure he wasnt expecting it either so randomly….he had been treated with velvet gloves for several months and then put in a crate be plonked back in the deep…it just doesnt seem right…no one does that to animals whether trying to rehabitat them…I agree with the people who said he could have been flown back..or the whole thing handled by the San Diego offence to the good work of any of the other vets ..its the way it was finalised.. I agree with most people here and some of us may not be experts but we have a heart with instincts as well………God Bless little sailor Happy Feet and most of all God Speed ok little one x x x x

  117. Maybe HF is diving for pebbles to replace the ones that was taken out of his tummy. He probably needs it to help aid in his digestion and for ballast when he’s riding the 4+ meter waves. He’s a smart seabird! Just look at the easterly winds and wave height he has to battle. How else could he have made the long trip swimming to NZ. He knows what his body needs to survive. Let’s just send positive thoughts and encouragement to Happy Feet. And geez Sirtrack, with worldwide interest why be off on the weekend? I’m sure someone could work part-time hours or even volunteer for a good cause.

  118. Thank you. I have been stressed and gloomy all day. This post gives me a little hope!

  119. Hi Collin and thank You very much for the informations of Argos satellite system….. I will wait a little calmer new updating of Happy Feet´s journey.. but I´m still little bit worried….
    with greetings
    Ulla from Finland

  120. Iff Happyfeet was “a by-catch” there would be signals. There could be something wrong in the “signals upload” I dont think he is dead. He is a strong bird in good health,
    Lets wait till monday, when the people from sirtrack give us some update.
    with grtz
    lisa netherlands

  121. HF has certainly captivated my imagination. Consider for a moment, how many times a day, humanities collective consciousness thinks about this special emperor penguin. At this very second somewhere in the torrent of the great southern ocean our Happy Feet is enacting the will of nature in his plight for survival.

    I will admit I was at first very concerned that Happy Feet is nowhere near any mass of land to rest. Thus it is both fascinating and reassuring to know that Happy Feet needs not land but for a few months a year.

    It is somewhat concerning to me, however, that his updates have ceased to come in. I understand there are many variables to why this is. The one that makes me the most angry to consider is that he has become by-catch in a fisherman’s net.

    I will continue to think of Happy Feet’s journey and hope the power of collective consciousness is of some tangible aid if only through the power of positivity.

    God speed Happy Feet!

    A friend,
    Austin, Texas

  122. Hi Colin.
    Many thanks for your informations which help us to have a better understanding of the situation.
    HF has a lot of supporters and we are very consernede about him.

  123. It has been in the media here in NZ that this penguin might have been bycatch from a fishing boat, and then just dumped near NZ. If that is the case, he may not be capable of swimming back to Antarctica.

  124. My thoughts exactly, Kathy…

  125. After involving so many people, including kids, around the world, I really think its unfortunate that HF couldn’t have been given better odds of survival at the end of his stay. All the care he was given earlier just doesn’t add up to what’s happened to him after his release.

  126. Hello and Thankyou:Dr Miskelly:This is still Friday night 20:40 in Leith Onatario Canada. I think everyone tuned into this blog needs all the educated reassurance possible!!!!! There seems to be alot of people, myself included who dearly care about this little fellow and his journey – which to me bodes well for the future of all living things on our planet.
    Please keep us as informed and educated about his progress as possible.

  127. thank you for explaining – we are so used to immediate consistent contact in our daily lives. Hopefully we do get some more signals and he is just playing in the water at present . cheers

  128. Thank you, Colin….we are hanging onto your every word!

    Please continue to keep us posted, as it is much appreciated by those of us who care about the fate of this little penguin. He may be only 1 of 300,000, but his singular life is all that he’s got, and we so want him to have it….

  129. Thanks Colin, I like many others have been following HF and was also concerned about lack of any latest news of him. Thank you very much for taking the time to keep us all updated and I am sure many others out there also share in my thanks.

  130. Colin,

    Good morning! Thank-you so very much for all the detail you have provided in order to help assuage our feelings of concern for Happy Feet. Knowledge is a wonderful thing. If only some time had been taken to explain the facts you have presented through the media, I believe that ardently passionate animal lovers such as I would have reacted accordingly at the outset.
    I truly hope this little guy makes it home. It is great to see people all over the globe brought together out of care and concern for his welfare. Thank-you again. Your Canadian fan club president.

  131. Be patient. Even if the transmitter is still working and is still attached to a living penguin, there are multiple reasons why locations may not be shown on the map.

    Sirtrack have developed software that automatically receives fixes from the Argos satellite system, and filters out imprecise or faulty locality data. As mentioned in earlier blogs (nos 3, 4 & 6), the transmitter sends a signal every 45 seconds, and the satellite needs to recieve 4 or more signals per pass to provide an accurate fix. If the bird is diving to feed or even to swim rapidly (i.e. any behaviour other than drifting or slow swimming on the surface) then the satellite will not pick up a signal.

    There will be days when no fixes are accurate enough to get through the automated filters. And after a while the transmitter will switch to a new duty cycle of transmitting only every second day (still 7 hrs per day, 0800-1200 and 1800-2100 UTC), to conserve battery power, so that the transmitter should work right through until it is due to fall off when he moults c.January.

    In case you are struggling with the times shown on the maps, UTC (universal time) = Greenwich Mean Time, which is currently 12 hours behind New Zealand time. It is Saturday morning in New Zealand as I type (hence from my home email address), which means that the Sirtrack team will not be back at work for another 2 days. They are the only ones who can manually check the data received from Argos to let us know whether inaccurate fixes have been received (and therefore not mapped) during days when it appears the transmitter has not been working.

    Colin Miskelly

  132. Dr. Miskelly – any theories as to why we have seemingly lost contact with Happy Feet? Are you hearing or thinking anything new? Please elucidate.
    Nancy C

  133. hi, it is still not making this right ;he should have been taken to his colony on the ship. ; somehow we don’t see any other birds floating around they were wrong,made a heartless decision in the name o science, murdered him sentenced him to a slow painflull death!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! they must pick him up or face a world condemnation joanna Canada

  134. He definitely should not have been kept in a zoo. He must go out and do penguin things. He may not make it but that is nature and he will at least have had a 2nd chance.

  135. Thank you Dr. Miskelly for your good work but – maybe a quick message on twitter – to inform the scare mongers that the transmitter only comes on twice a day and to read your articles instead of criticising what has been done would be in order – also the people in europe should maybe calculate the time difference, for example 8 hours from central europe to Australia. The uninformed are the ones who demand to know!!! They probably don’t have time between their tweets to read the article on the side of page explaining how the tracker works

    Regards Elisabeth

  136. Quick question to anyone – any recent updates? SirtrackNZEmperor site seems to be behind the time!!!
    Many thanks,

  137. Thank’s Dr. Miskelly for informing us about the life of emperor penguins, i read also your papablog, so i know a lot more now.
    My concerns about HF are now reduced to normal.
    I’ll think HF is a very remarkable bird and he will find his way home!!!
    greatings from the netherlands who are also watching HF.

  138. Thank you sooooo much Dr Miskelly for informing all of us who do not have even rudimentary knowledge of ‘normal’ penguin life styles, that indeed HF is where he needs to be. Prior to watching this intriguing and heart wrenching odyssey, I had next to zero knowledge about the emperor’s life (other than watching The March of the Penguins). I for one didn’t realize that they spent so much of their lives at sea without touching land for months at a time. That alone just makes my head spin! I think this is the source of greatest concern for many followers of Mr. HF and it is reassuring to have people who know the facts about emperors, remind all of us from time to time.
    Please keep up the blogs as they are extremely interesting, educating and also reassuring.
    We will be watching as long as we can, so swim strong, eat well and be free Happy Feet!!!!You’ve captured our hearts for sure.

  139. Happyfeet?

    Is he an exception in his behavior? To travel so far north? We don’t know that.
    The fact is that happyfeet stranded on Pica Pica and was taking in care.

    A fact is that the emperorpinguin is a strongly adapted bird off the sea. The cold waters around SP is

    his habitat. He can hold his breath for 20 minutes en can dive 500 meters deep.
    Happyfeet is a male. So iff he finds a mate, he will breed. Standing almost still for 2

    months with an egg up his feet ! in -40 celsius !
    The emperor don’t mate for live… Any girl will do! 🙂 They cant be picky because live is

    hard for a emperor.
    When he is in breeding age, he will walk about 60 km! over ice to find his breeding colony

    All what i want to say : happyfeet is not a sissy 🙂

    Happyfeet gives us the opportunity to learn more about the way the emperor lives in the


    I read that people want him in a zoo… That is not an option. He maybe look cut.. but this

    bird is a predator and needs the cold icy ocean, and, later maybe, find a mate.

    People find it cruel to drop him in the ocean, so far away from the SP. But very near the SP

    there are many more predators. And we know that he is remarkble swimmer:) he made it to NZ !

    Iff he didnt eat sand, he would have swim back! I am sure off that.

    I have been working many years with wildlive birds. Rescue them, taking them back in the


    And there is only one true… you never know if they are going to make it. But you give them

    the “second live”

    (english not that good, from netherlands)

    with greets

  140. Thanks for explaining some things Colin! Just like Amara i would like to know if other (not origanal) colonies can accept HF?

  141. Colin, you seem to know a lot about penguins and so thank you for clarifying some things for us. I also was very worried about HF and also thought he must need to rest on land from time to time and wondered how he would do that when there is no land for thousands of km. So I feel a little better now with the info you have posted. I am sure you can understand why so many are concerned for his well being and safety, especially after having followed his story all this time. I pray that he will be ok and get home safely.

    Also someone else had asked this question above, and as you know about penguins maybe you can answer this also – If he does not find his original colony but finds other emperor penguins instead, will they accept him? because it may be almost impossible to find his original family, colony. Thanks again Colin.

    And Mr. Happy Feet, we love you and we wish you again, God speed. May God and St. Francis of Assisi bless and protect you on your way home.

  142. Emperor penguins are seabirds. They do not need land or ice other than to breed or moult (see Blog #3). Their natural habitat is the southern ocean. He is back in his environment, and we do not need to be any more concerned about him than we are about any of the 300,000+ other emperor penguins that are not carrying satellite transmitters and that are sharing the southern ocean with him.

    There is no prospect of anyone interfering any further with this bird. As stated in Blog#4, he is not carrying a GPS, and so we know only approximately where he is (give or take a few kilometres). He has been given a massive head start being released 1250 km south of where he chose to swim to, and away from sandy beaches. The rest is up to him.

    Fish, squid and krill live in the sea, and that is where he needs to be in order to feed and have any chance of living a natural life. Not in a zoo, or on an island, or on the Antarctic mainland. He does not need a solid surface until about the end of December when it will be time to moult.

  143. I think they need a PR person that will answer some of these questions – it would put a lot of people’s mind at rest. I think I read somewhere that the seas were too rough to drop him any closer, but …. how long can he stay in the water without going up on land? Anybody know?

  144. Where have the animal rights groups been over the last 2 months? There is so much work to be done with respect to our conscious treatment of animals. I refer you to for a real wake up call.

    Is there the capability of retrieving Happy Feet from the ocean should he be in distress? There must be somebody out there with the answers. Please respond.

  145. I honestly think that this was just a disgrace to do such a horrible act of cruelty. I am amazed that animal rights activists have not done anything about it before it was too late. At the moment they say he is floating, how do they know if he is alive or not as to me it seems that maybe this is already his body floating in the wrong direction. I am quite sure we will see a big action from animal rights activist if he dies there before reaching his final destination. Many people from different countries have the same point of view. My niece cried when the pictures and videos were shown of him being dropped in the middle of the vast ocean. I wish him well as everybody else but I think that there is a chance he won’t stand the odds….

  146. I am not well versed on the subject but my understanding is that there is an agreement by all countries involved in antartica not to bring any wildlife to antartica- so as not to introduce new diseases to the area. I am surprised but pleased that they were able to release him at all, I would have hated to see him have to live in captivity. My thoughts are that he is no ordinary Penguin and the strength and tenacity that got him to NZ will help him get home. Hopefully someone with more knowledge will answer the questions posed above

  147. Thank-you for responding Chenoa – it is reassuring to know there are like minded people out there with some common sense. Why couldn’t he have just stayed at the zoo? The entire handling of this has me fuming and I know a few other Canadians who feel exactly the same way.

  148. I agree 100%, Jacquelyn….after following HF’s ordeal for 2 months at the Wellington Zoo, during which time he was extremely well cared for, I am FURIOUS that they couldn’t come up with a better plan to get him back to Antarctica. They could have waited until Gareth Morgan’s expedition departs for the area in February (and flown him to the San Diego Zoo in the meantime). People the world over would have financially contributed to any expense….

  149. can somebody explain to me, because i do not understand, why Happy Feet could not be realised much closer to Antarctica ? why is he been dropped off so far from his colony ?

  150. Would someone be kind enough to explain why this bird has been forced to swim such a distance? Could he not have been dropped off a little closer to home? I can’t imagine he is in the best physical condition – endurance wise and how will he muster the fortitude to fight the ocean currents. Surely this was considered.

    I am an avid animal lover and am quite appalled at the outcome of this little guy’s adventure but if anyone out there can explain to me why things have been handled as they have been – from six days of neglect and sand eating to dropping him off 2000 and some odd km from home – I would love to hear from you.

  151. Could he be trying to go south, but the current flowing from the west towards the east is carrying him off course??
    The furious 50’s, I understand are extremely strong seas, so could he have gotten caught in them as well on his way up?? Possibly a several month journey as well??

  152. Please keep us updated on your analysis of HF’s journey, as many of us are in need of reassurance as to his welfare.

    Meanwhile, will the eastern currents eventually ease, allowing HF to swim in a more southernly direction with less effort?

  153. It is reassuring to a degree to read Dr. MIskelly’s blogs ie: HF is generally headed in the right direction. His analysis of various aspects to HF’s journey is extremely interesting and how it all relates to what is known about emperors in general.
    However, it is still nerve wracking to watch the little guy meander around the immense sea and as illustrated here, the extraordinary strong currents.
    We are all keeping watch HF (from Canada), and wish your journey be safe and strong!!!!!!

  154. He seems to be heading east the last day. With all due respect to the decision process, and the limitations of transport, releasing him so far north into a powerful current … that isn’t at his back… this penguin’s got a journey ahead of him, maybe historic for his kind.

    Here’s a link to a climate change map with Emperor Penguin colonies.. colonies further east to the Antarctic Peninsula show more warming trends…

    I’m hoping he finds the colder areas as he approaches the Antarctic… good luck to Happy Feet!

  155. I think all the time about the little fellow and I hope he makes it home!!!!
    Wherever that might be…
    What do you do when you see he is not moving for let’s say 5 days or so???

  156. This last point made me wonder about something: if he ends up joining a colony that is not his original colony, will the other emperor penguins be ok with it and take him in?

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