Review – Klemens Pütz’s Book „Unverfrorene Freunde“

Hannover, 10. January 2019.

I thought I already knew everything about penguins. Well, let’s say I thought I knew almost everything. After all, we had been together twice on the Falkland Islands with our penguin researcher, Klemens Pütz. And the poor man had little chance to flee from my many questions..

I don’t know anyone who thinks penguins are stupid. They are simply wonderful. The more one deals with them, the more respect one has for their many accomplishments. That is at least how I see it. They never have vacation, there is no break from their daily routine, and they strictly follow the plan of life that evolution has set out for them. How exciting it must be to be allowed to research them. And that doing so is not Sunday stroll, is impressively described in his new book “Unverfrorene Freunde”. Since there are other professions that must be followed as well and we cannot all be penguin researchers, it is good that Klemens allows us to partake in his experiences.

Through reading, it quickly becomes clear that the on-site work is no bed of roses. As privileged a longer stay in the Antarctic is, it is always uncomfortable and cold. As wonderful as it sounds to travel to New Zealand as part of your occupation, the penguin research must be attended to as well. It is not a vacation. Upon return, one must present results, regardless of what the weather was like.

During one of our trips to the Falkland Islands, we were allowed to help. Klemens captured a number of Rockhopper Penguins, in order to take blood and feather samples from them, and to measure their beaks. The results of the samples were to help determine their genetic relatedness to one another. Wow, and we were there! I remember very well how difficult it was to capture those small and not shy penguins. Thus, I hadn’t the vaguest idea what it must be like to capture a 40 kilogram-heavy Emperor Penguin.

Klemens describes all of this in his book; the different characteristics of the different species of penguins, it’s fun, but also tragic. Only since the invention of GPS devices is it even possible to observe what the penguins do for so many months in the ocean. There are many open questions still to be answered.

The book is a mix of autobiography and a relaying of knowledge about these cute tuxedo wearers of the southern hemisphere. One becomes aware of the fact that the researchers are underway for months, and that the rest of the family is left home to deal with their daily tasks. But why bother with all of this? Why do penguins have to be researched? Klemens provides the answer to that in the introduction to his book: “Penguins are not just cute. They have something to say. The live under extreme conditions and perform adaptation adjustments of which we humans can only dream, on land as well as in the water. If the surrounding conditions change just a bit, the penguins show it to us immediately. Through them we see where the weak points are in the ecosystem upon which we humans are dependent.” Klemens thus puts his finger in the wound of our planet, in an unagitated manner, and without the moral finger-wagging. He lets the reader decide what to do with the Information.

I knew for quite some time that this book was going to be published. I had much time to anticipate its arrival. I read it all at once, only interrupted by going to work, eating and other such unavoidable things. I laughed while I was reading it, I was surprised and astonished, sometimes a bit envious, and I learned quite a bit, and that, although I thought I already knew everything about Penguins.

Birgit Roth

Translated by Erich Greiner

Anm.: Pictures Klemens Pütz


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