An Auk goak

I spent most of yesterday morning chuckling. There were even a few belly laughs and at one point I found it quite hard to breathe. I’d posted this April Fools’ blog about seeing a ‘mystery bird’ on the island of Papa Westray.

Sadly Great Auks have been extinct since we killed the last of them in 1852. Personally I don’t think it was worth extinguishing their unbroken genetic line, which stretched back 3.5 billion years, for a bit of feather bedding.

You needed to kill 720 of them to make a mattress.

Here’s my photograph, a quickly Photoshopped attempt, from a phone photo I took in the museum in Paris on a romantic weekend. Remember those?

Mystery Bird - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Here’s one response I was pleased with:

An Auk, yes, I can live with that. And Stewart thinks it’s a great shot! Bernard agreed it was too big for a Razorbill.

An Icelandic bird? Well Great Auks only bred on remote, rocky islands around Canada, Greenland, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, and, yes, Iceland as well as the UK. They did live in Papa Westray, before we killed them all. Margaret had a good idea:

The scientific name of the Great Auk was Pinguinus impennis, and when people of the northern hemisphere saw Penguins they named them Penguins because of Pinguinus, the Great Auk. Great Auks were the Penguins of the North before we killed them all and they became the Dodos of the North. Neil had a great response and was clearly in on the joke:

Myra didn’t engage with the spirit of the day and responded with a greengrocers’ apostrophe in photos:

The responses poured in:

And more came flooding in all day as 1,000 people visited my blog:

And then the wonderful storyteller Tom Muir made a delightful comment:

It was a Great Auk and a good joke (or goak) and my ribs still hurt from laughing. I wonder how many other species are going to go the same way?

Great Auk - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s no laughing matter.

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