Encounters at the end of the world

In a scene from Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World we see a penguin colony on Antarctica from which a single penguin escapes and starts running towards the mountains, endlessly, in its awkward way. Sometimes such a solitary penguin is encountered at the science station sixty miles from the colony. There it doesn’t halt its way but runs on, towards - so Herzog informs us - a certain death. No explanation could be given by the local expert, Dr. David Ainley, interviewed in the movie. Unfortunately Herzog fails to interview a remaining member of the colony, who could have told him that the ones who get away, in most cases, have been boring their peers for years with their dreams about the mountains in the distance, elaborately and inconsistently describing what they would look like from up close, and saying that although, given our experience with cliffs, it would surely be too much to expect a penguin such as ourselves to fly if it were to jump down from the top of one of those mountains, even if it thought all the right thoughts and flapped its wings furiously, still we should go there for the advancement of our civilization, for the glory of our colony and all of penguinkind.

© 2009–2024, Martijn Wallage