He risked freezing or starving to death on a doomed expedition to the South Pole 100 years ago -- but for George Murray Levick, the real horror lay in the twisted sexual mores of the Adelie penguin.
London's Natural History Museum has unearthed a landmark study by Levick, a scientist with the ill-fated 1910-13 Scott Antarctic Expedition, detailing the birds' sexual shenanigans, the Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday.
Homosexual acts, sexual abuse of chicks and even attempts by male penguins to mate with dead females are recorded in Levick's paper "Sexual Habits of the Adelie Penguin", which had been lost for decades.
Edwardian Englishman Levick was so horrified by his own findings that he initially recorded them in Greek to make them inaccessible to the average reader.
An automobile sled passes by a group of Adelie penguins in the South Pole in 1958 (AFP/File)
Male penguins gather in "hooligan bands of half a dozen or more and hang about the outskirts of the knolls, whose inhabitants they annoy by their constant acts of depravity," he later wrote in the paper in English.
To this day, Levick is the only scientist to have studied an entire breeding cycle at Cape Adare after he spent the Antarctic summer of 1911-12 there, the Guardian said.
Captain Robert Scott and four others perished after reaching the South Pole on January 17, 1912 -- only to find Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it more than a month earlier.
But Levick survived, despite having been forced with five others to spend an entire Antarctic winter in an ice cave with few supplies after the expedition ship, Terra Nova, was blocked by ice on its way to rescue them.
Back in Britain, he published a paper called "Natural History of the Adelie Penguin,” but his findings about the species' astonishing sexual behaviors were considered so shocking that they were omitted.
This material was used for a short separate study, "Sexual Habits of the Adelie Penguin,” that was privately passed around a few experts.
The groundbreaking paper -- which came around 50 years ahead of the next study on the subject -- had been lost until the recent discovery of a copy by Douglas Russell, curator of birds at the Natural History Museum.
Russell has had the paper published in the journal Polar Record along with an analysis of Levick's work, the Guardian said.
Russell told the Guardian's sister Sunday newspaper, The Observer, that the penguins' sexual inexperience is to blame for the antics that so disgusted Levick.
"Adelies gather at their colonies in October to start to breed. They have only a few weeks to do that and young adults simply have no experience of how to behave," he explained.
"Hence the seeming depravity of their behaviour."
<관련 한글 기사>
펭귄의 충격적인 ‘성적 변태성’ 밝혀져!
100년전에 조지 머레이 레빅 영국 탐험가가 남극을 탐험했을 때 그를 가장 경악케 했던 것은 극심한 추위나 굶주림이 아닌 아델리 펭귄의 변태적인 성적 행동 양식이었다.
아델리 펭귄들은 동성애 행위, 어린 펭귄에 대한 성폭력도 마다하지 않았고 심지어 수컷 펭귄들은 죽은 암컷 펭귄들과 교미를 시도하기도 하였다. 이런 내용들은 몇 십년간 세상에 공개되지 않았던 레빅의 “아델리 펭귄의 성적인 습관들”이라는 논문에 실린 것이다.
레빅은 자신의 연구결과에 너무 놀란 나머지 일부러 내용을 그리스어로 기록하여 일반 독자들은 읽지 못하도록 해 놓았다.
그의 논문에 따르면 수컷 펭귄들은 떼로 무리를 지어 언덕의 주변에서 어슬렁거리며 변태적인 행위로 그곳에서 서식하는 동물들을 짜증나게 만든다고 한다.
지금까지 레빅은 1911-12년 남극 여름을 케이프 아데어에서 보내며 아델리 펭귄의 전체 번식 주기를 연구한 유일한 과학자이다.