Penguin Depression

Dávid Preller

At first I was a bit surprised when I opened the video and was greeted with a message that said that it is not available anymore. Then I was surprised once again by the video of the lone penguin setting into the distant mountains. Why would a penguin depart from its fellow mates to wander alone and potentially die? Could it be that it was depressed? Or did it just set out to explore unknown lands?

The video starts with a group of penguins wandering on the snowy plains of Antarctica. Then the camera focuses on a lonely penguin a little bit behind the group, just standing in the snow. Suddenly, it start wobbling in the direction of the mountains, which is straight opposite to its group. The narrator also mentions that even if you grab the little guy and bring it back to its peers, it will start walking off again.

This scene makes you think. It is surely not natural or logical for a penguin to leave its mates to wander alone. So what made the penguin do it? I don’t think that most animals have such a huge range of emotions that they can suddenly realise how pointless their existence is and therefore fall into depression. But maybe they are actually more self-conscious than we know. It is also possible that out of the blue it decided that it was going to explore the wild unknown. Since this is how the frontier becomes the known land. One crazy person decides to venture into the unknown. Many of them fail, like this penguin possibly, but eventually there is someone who succeeds. We believe that animals rely solely on their instincts; however, could it be possible that they have a will of their own?  I am not much of a scientist myself, so I can’t really answer this question.

All in all, I really enjoyed this short scene. First it was funny, then it suddenly became quite sad as we realised that the penguin was going to die alone. But maybe for once in its lifetime, the little penguin was finally happy.

This piece responds to a scene from Werner Herzog’s documentary Encounters at the End of the World. The film was briefly available on YouTube. Afterward, select scenes could still be found, including the penguin scene described here.