The Royal Navy is co-operating with British scientists in an exercise that looks odds-on favourite for a win in next year's Ig Nobel prizegiving ceremony. For five weeks this winter HMS Endurance and its two helicopters will be in South Georgia helping check to see how stressed penguins get when they fall over while watching aircraft.
The phenomenon of synchronised keeling in the Tux community has been known since the Falklands war brought regular air traffic to the islands. Heartless British fighter pilots allegedly* fly past tens of thousands of penguins, who lean over in unison as they watch the jets streak by. The jets then bank sharply, scream back in the other direction, and the entire penguin colony loses its balance and keels.
Funnily enough, we haven't been in a position to verify this. But The scientific team heading out to South Georgia thinks it's serious enough. The Endurance's helicopters will fly around in order to make penguins fall over, while the team stands poised to measure the resultant stress.
"Helicopters?" We hear you cry. "Shouldn't that be fighter planes?" Ah, but the team will go back next winter for another five weeks of follow-up tests with fixed wing aircraft... ®
* In the interests of bandwidth minimisation we wish to point out that we know this story has been around a long time, that it might be an urban legend, but that it's funny anyway. So don't hassle us, OK?