“Some of the things he noticed profoundly shocked him,” Russell said. For instance, Levick noted the penguins’ autoerotic tendencies, and the seemingly aberrant behavior of young unpaired males and females, including necrophilia, sexual coercion, sexual and physical abuse of chicks, non-procreative sex and homosexual behaviors.
Considered too explicit for society at the time, the pamphlet wasn’t published with the other Terra Nova expedition reports. As such, it remained hidden in the bird collections at the museum to be uncovered recently by Russell.
“Levick’s notes were decades ahead of their time and possibly the first ever attempt to reveal the more challenging aspects of bird behavioral strategies to the academic world,” Russell said in a statement.
At the time, Levick was so shocked by what he saw he recorded the events in Greek to disguise the information, at one point writing, “There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins.”
For instance, on Nov. 10, 1911, Levick wrote in Greek (translated here): “This afternoon I saw a most extraordinary site [sic]. A Penguin was actually engaged in sodomy upon the body of a dead white throated bird of its own species. The act occurred a full minute, the position taken up by the cock differing in no respect from that of ordinary copulation, and the whole act was gone through down to the final depression of the cloaca.”
In another entry, this one written in English on Dec. 6 of that year, he wrote: “I saw another act of astonishing depravity today. A hen which had been in some way badly injured in the hindquarters was crawling painfully along on her belly. I was just wondering whether I ought to kill her or not, when a cock noticed her in passing, and went up to her. After a short inspection he deliberately raped her, she being quite unable to resist him.”