Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good Article on Tring's Natural History Museum

A Little Bird Told Me

Outside the Natural History Museum's bird collection at Tring, a cat basks in the late afternoon sunshine.

Every now and again, a large bell attached to her collar tinkles as she adjusts her position.

The security guard tells me that Pusscat, the museum's resident feline, was fitted with this noisy accessory after apparently supplying the researchers with a few too many new birds.

The ornithology collection here is one of the largest in the world.

There are approximately one million eggs, 700,000 bird skins, 16,000 skeletons and 4,000 nests; not to mention a library packed with books, journals, paintings and notebooks.

Robert Prys-Jones, the head of the bird group, says that despite the vast number of items, nearly every one of them has a story to tell.

BBC News was given an exclusive peek behind the scenes by the ornithologists, and a chance to hear about some of their most prized specimens.


At first glance, the three emperor penguin eggs nestled within one of the many storage cupboards in the archives do not seem out of the ordinary.

But the tale that lies behind their collection is one of extraordinary human endeavour.

On 27 June 1911, zoologist Edward A Wilson, Henry Robertson "Birdie" Bowers and Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard set out in the Antarctic winter for a penguin colony at Cape Crozier.

At the time, it was thought that the embryos in the eggs might shed light on the evolutionary link between reptiles and birds.

However, as curator Douglas Russell explains in the video below, their journey was later to be described as the "worst journey in the world"

See the accompanying video HERE

An excerpt from an article from BBC News @

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