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10 Fascinating Facts About Thunderball

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We’ve seen 20 (21 if you count the unofficial Never Say Never Again) James Bond films since the release of Thunderball 50 years ago, but it still hovers over Bond fandom like few other entries in the franchise can. It’s not necessarily the best movie in the ongoing spy saga (a lot of fans would give that honor to Goldfinger), nor is it the most expensive (that’s the recently released Spectre), but it is one of the most iconic Bond installments, a film that came along at exactly the right time and courted fans in exactly the right way. So, to celebrate its enduring legacy five decades after its release, here are 10 fascinating facts about the fourth big-screen James Bond adventure, from its odd origins to its wild stunt work.

1. IT STARTED AS A FILM, THEN BECAME A BOOK, THEN BECAME A FILM AGAIN.

In 1959, Bond creator Ian Fleming began considering a film version of his character, and collaborated with producer Kevin McClory and writer Jack Whittingham on a screenplay treatment. Fleming eventually tired of the movie business, and went back home to Jamaica to write his next Bond novel, Thunderball. McClory later sued, claiming the novel used elements from the film they’d worked on together. The suit settled out of court, but McClory was granted certain rights to Thunderball in the process, and ultimately served as a producer on the movie. Nearly two decades after Thunderball was released, he served as an executive producer on Never Say Never Again, a Bond film that saw the return of Sean Connery in the title role for the first time in more than a decade (produced by Warner Bros. and not Bond’s home studio of MGM). The plot is in many ways identical to Thunderball.

2. TERENCE YOUNG WAS NOT THE ORIGINAL DIRECTOR.

Producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman originally wanted Guy Hamilton—fresh off the success of the third Bond film, Goldfinger—to direct Thunderball, but Hamilton didn’t feel he had the energy.

“I was drained of ideas,” Hamilton said in an interview for The Making of Thunderball. “I was very fond of Bond, but felt that I had nothing to contribute until I’d recharged batteries.”

Producers then turned to Terence Young, who’d directed both Dr. No and From Russia with LoveThunderball would be his final Bond film. Hamilton later went on to direct Connery again in Diamonds Are Forever, and Roger Moore in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun.

3. HUNDREDS OF ACTRESSES WERE CONSIDERED FOR THE ROLE OF DOMINO.

The role of Domino Derval was set to be the most complex Bond Girl yet, and producers looked at hundreds of actresses for the role. Among the biggest names were Julie Christie, Raquel Welch, and Faye Dunaway, but the role eventually went to Claudine Auger, a former Miss France. Even Thunderball co-star Luciana Paluzzi auditioned for the role, but was actually overjoyed when she found out she’d be playing villain Fiona Volpe instead.

4. THE JETPACK REALLY WORKED, BUT THE PILOT WOULDN’T FLY WITHOUT A HELMET. 

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The Bell Rocket Belt used in the film’s opening sequence was a real working jetpack, and two qualified pilots were flown to France to operate it for the moment when Bond lifts off. Bill Suitor, who flew the jetpack on camera, was initially asked if he would mind flying without a helmet so that Bond could look cooler. Suitor refused for safety reasons, which is why Connery wore a helmet in the final film.

5. A CHASE SCENE NEARLY KILLED A STUNTMAN.

For the scene in which Fiona Volpe uses rockets launched from a motorcycle to blow up Count Lippe’s car, stuntman Bob Simmons was tasked with driving the car, then leaping out after the explosion took place. Simmons leapt out as the car crashed into a ditch, then seemed to disappear. As the crew frantically searched for him, Simmons walked up behind director Terence Young and asked him if he’d done the scene right. Footage from another angle later showed that Simmons had actually tried to stand up in the ditch and fallen backwards into the flaming car before escaping the scene.

6. THE BRITISH MILITARY THOUGHT BOND’S MINIATURE OXYGEN TANK WAS REAL. 

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Early in the film, Q gives Bond a tiny breathing apparatus that allows him to survive underwater for several minutes, and Bond puts it to good use when trapped in a closed pool with a bunch of sharks. The scene was so convincing that a member of the Royal Engineers called chief draftsman Peter Lamont and asked him how long the apparatus actually worked. Lamont replied “as long as you can hold your breath.” When the engineer countered that Bond was underwater for several minutes onscreen, Lamont replied it was “the skill of the editor.” The engineer eventually hung up.

7. THREE PEOPLE NARROWLY ESCAPED SHARK ATTACKS.

The scenes involving villain Emilio Largo’s shark-filled pool proved difficult for a number of reasons. Stuntman Bill Cummings, for a shot in which Largo throws someone into the pool to be devoured, asked for 250 pounds of hazard pay because he was actually being asked to leap onto a live shark (he survived). For the scenes in which Bond himself was trapped in the pool, things got trickier. Sean Connery was wary of swimming unprotected with live sharks, so production designer Ken Adam constructed an underwater partition made of Plexiglas, with one problem:

“What I didn’t tell Sean was that I could only get so much Plexiglas,” Adam later said.

So, there was a four-foot gap in the partition, and sure enough, one of the sharks managed to find it, leaving Connery with just enough time to escape the pool.

For a shot in which a shark swims toward Bond as he’s exiting the pool, missing him by inches, the crew decided to use a dead shark pulled by wires to reduce the danger. Special effects coordinator John Stears got in the pool to control the shark, surrounded by other live sharks, and as they began to shoot it became clear the shark wasn’t really dead. As it began moving, other sharks took notice, and a feeding frenzy ensued, leaving Stears in the middle of a bloodbath. As Stears yelled “Get me out of here!” Young shouted “Turn the cameras!,” hoping to capture the scene on film. Stears survived, and went on to win an Oscar for Best Visual Effects for Thunderball (he won a second Oscar in 1978 for a little film called Star Wars).

8. THE FILM’S CLIMACTIC EXPLOSION WAS BIGGER THAN ANYONE EXPECTED.

For the scene in which Largo’s yacht, the Disco Volante, crashes onto rocks and explodes, Stears turned to U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Charles Russhon, who’d also helped the Bond crew gain access to Fort Knox for Goldfinger. Russhon provided the production with experimental rocket fuel to help with the explosion, and Stears­—having no idea how powerful the stuff really was—loaded the yacht with it. The resulting explosion was so huge that it launched the boat into the air, almost causing it to land on the crew.

“I said ‘I don’t want to worry you guys, but the boat is coming down on top of us,’” Stears later recalled.

When the crew returned to Nassau after shooting the scene, they discovered the power of the explosion had also shattered windows all along Bay Street. They were 30 miles away from Nassau when the explosion occurred.

9. THE ORIGINAL THEME SONG WAS VERY DIFFERENT.

For the film’s theme, composers John Barry and Leslie Bricusse initially wrote a tune called “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” (which is why there’s a location called the “Kiss Kiss Club” in the film), and asked “Goldfinger” vocalist Shirley Bassey to sing it. Dionne Warwick later re-recorded the song, and producers were initially going to include it in the film, as long as the lyrics began after the title Thunderball appeared onscreen. Eventually, though, fearing there would be confusion if the theme song didn’t include the movie’s title in the lyrics, the song was pulled. Barry and lyricist Don Black then wrote “Thunderball,” performed by Tom Jones in the final film.

10. SEAN CONNERY DID NOT GO TO ANY PREMIERES BECAUSE FANS WERE TOO ENTHUSIASTIC.

Thunderball was a massive success, and the film’s release was met with an incredible reception. Some theaters stayed open 24 hours a day to keep screening the movie, and cast members attended various premiere events around the world (Molly Peters, who played Patricia Fearing, believes she saw the movie 16 times that year). One actor who didn’t go to the premieres, though: Sean Connery. Why? Because the Goldfinger premiere in Paris had been so huge that a female fan climbed into the car he was driving, prompting him to shy away from the Thunderball attention.

Additional Source: The Making of Thunderball and The Thunderball Phenomenon (1995)

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25 Royals in the Line of Succession to the British Throne
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Between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcoming their third child on April 23, 2018 and Prince Harry's upcoming marriage to Suits star Meghan Markle in May, the line of succession to the British throne has become a topic of interest all over the world. And the truth is, it’s complicated. Though Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 92 years old on April 21, shows no signs of slowing down, here are the royals who could one day take her place on the throne—in one very specific order.

1. PRINCE CHARLES

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As a direct result of his mother being the world's longest-reigning monarch, Prince Charles—the eldest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip—is the longest serving heir to the throne; he became heir apparent in 1952, when his mother ascended to the throne.

2. PRINCE WILLIAM

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At 35 years old, odds are good that Prince William, Duke of Cambridge—the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana—will ascend to the throne at some point in his lifetime.

3. PRINCE GEORGE 

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On July 22, 2013, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their first child, Prince George of Cambridge, who jumped the line to step ahead of his uncle, Prince Harry, to become third in the line of succession.

4. PRINCESS CHARLOTTE 

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On May 2, 2015, William and Catherine added another member to their growing brood: a daughter, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Though her parents just welcomed a bouncing baby boy, she will maintain the fourth-in-line position because of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which went into effect just a few weeks before her arrival, and removed a long-held rule which stated that any male sibling (regardless of birth order) would automatically move ahead of her.

5. PRINCE OF CAMBRIDGE

 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge depart the Lindo Wing with their newborn son at St Mary's Hospital on April 23, 2018 in London, England
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On April 23, 2018, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their third child—a son, whose name has yet to be announced, but who has already pushed his uncle, Prince Harry, out of the fifth position in line to the throne.

6. PRINCE HARRY

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As the second-born son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Prince Harry's place in the line is a regularly changing one. It changed earlier this week, when his brother William's third child arrived, and could change again if and when their family expands.

7. PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK

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Prince Andrew is a perfect example of life before the Succession to the Crown Act 2013: Though he’s the second-born son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, he’s actually their third child (Princess Anne came between him and Prince Charles). But because the rules gave preference to males, Prince Andrew would inherit the throne before his older sister.

8. PRINCESS BEATRICE OF YORK

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Because Prince Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, had two daughters and no sons, none of that male-preference primogeniture stuff mattered in terms of their placement. But with each child her cousin Prince William has, Princess Beatrice moves farther away from the throne. If Beatrice looks familiar, it might be because of the headlines she made with the Dr. Seuss-like hat she wore to William and Catherine’s wedding. (The infamous topper later sold on eBay for more than $130,000, all of which went to charity.)

9. PRINCESS EUGENIE OF YORK

Princess Eugenie of York arrives in the parade ring during Royal Ascot 2017 at Ascot Racecourse on June 20, 2017 in Ascot, England
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Though she’s regularly seen at royal events, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s youngest daughter spends the bulk of her time indulging her interest in fine art. She has held several jobs in the art world, and is currently a director at Hauser & Wirth’s London gallery.

10. PRINCE EDWARD, EARL OF WESSEX

 Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex leaves after a visit to Prince Philip
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Like his older brother Andrew, Prince Edward—the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip—jumps the line ahead of his older sister, Princess Anne, because of the older rule that put males ahead of females.

11. JAMES, VISCOUNT SEVERN

 James, Viscount Severn, rides on the fun fair carousel on day 4 of the Royal Windsor Horse Show on May 11, 2013 in Windsor, England
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James, Viscount Severn—the younger of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex’s two children, and their only son—turned 10 years old on December 17, 2017, and celebrated it as the 10th royal in line of succession. (The birth of the youngest Prince of Cambridge pushed him back a spot.)

12. LADY LOUISE MOUNTBATTEN-WINDSOR

Lady Louise Windsor during the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony at Buckingham Palace on June 15, 2013 in London, England.
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Because the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 wasn’t enacted until 2015, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor—the older of Prince Edward’s two children—will always be just behind her brother in the line of succession.

13. PRINCESS ANNE, THE PRINCESS ROYAL

Princess Anne, Princess Royal, visits the Hambleton Equine Clinic on October 10, 2017 in Stokesley, England
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Princess Anne, the Queen and Prince Philip’s second-born child and only daughter, may never rule over the throne in her lifetime, but at least she gets to be called “The Princess Royal.”

14. PETER PHILLIPS

Peter Phillips poses for a photo on The Mall
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The eldest child and only son of Princess Anne and her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, stands just behind his mother in line. Interesting fact: Had Phillips’s wife, Autumn Kelly, not converted from Roman Catholicism to the Church of England before their marriage in 2008, Phillips would have lost his place in line.

15. SAVANNAH PHILLIPS

Savannah Phillips attends a Christmas Day church service
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On December 29, 2010, Peter and Autumn Phillips celebrated the birth of their first child, Savannah Anne Kathleen Phillips, who is also the Queen’s first great-grandchild. She’s currently 15th in line.

16. ISLA PHILLIPS

Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Isla Phillips and Peter Phillips attend a Christmas Day church service
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Less than two years after Savannah, Peter and Autumn Phillips had a second daughter, Isla, who stands just behind her sister in line. It wasn’t until 2017 that Savannah and Isla made their Buckingham Palace balcony debut (in honor of their great-grandmother’s 91st birthday).

17. ZARA TINDALL

 Zara Tindall arrives for a reception at the Guildhall
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Not one to hide in the background, Zara Tindall—Princess Anne’s second child and only daughter—has lived much of her life in the spotlight. A celebrated equestrian, she won the Eventing World Championship in Aachen in 2006 and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year the same year (her mom earned the same title in 1971). She’s also Prince George’s godmother.

18. MIA TINDALL

Mike Tindall, Zara Tindall and their daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph during day three of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 28, 2016 in Kingham, Oxfordshire.
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Zara Tindall’s daughter Mia may just be 4 years old, but she’s already regularly making headlines for her outgoing personality. And though she’s only 18th in line to the throne, her connection to the tippity top of the royal family is much closer: Prince William is her godfather.

19. DAVID ARMSTRONG-JONES, 2ND EARL OF SNOWDON

David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon
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David Armstrong-Jones, the eldest child of Princess Margaret, isn’t waiting around to see if the British crown ever lands on his head. The 56-year-old, who goes by David Linley in his professional life, has made a name for himself as a talented furniture-maker. His bespoke pieces, sold under the brand name Linley, can be purchased through his own boutiques as well as at Harrods.

20. CHARLES ARMSTRONG-JONES, VISCOUNT LINLEY

Margarita Armstrong-Jones and Charles Patrick Inigo Armstrong-Jones
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David Armstrong-Jones’s only son, Charles, may be 20th in line to the throne, but the 18-year-old is the heir apparent to the Earldom of Snowdon.

21. LADY MARGARITA ARMSTRONG-JONES

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) talks with Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones (C) as her father David Armstrong-Jones (L), 2nd Earl of Snowdon, known as David Linley
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Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones, the youngest child of David Armstrong-Jones and his only daughter, is also the only granddaughter of Princess Margaret. Now 15 years old (she'll turn 16 in June), Lady Margarita made headlines around the world in 2011 when she served as a flower girl at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

22. LADY SARAH CHATTO

Lady Sarah Chatto, the daughter of Princess Margaret arrives for her mother's memorial service
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Lady Sarah Chatto, Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones’s only daughter, is the youngest grandchild of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. In addition to serving as a bridesmaid to Princess Diana, she is Prince Harry’s godmother.

23. SAMUEL CHATTO

Lady Sarah Chatto (L) and her son Samuel Chatto (R) leave a Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Lord Snowdon at Westminster Abbey on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom
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The first-born son of Lady Sarah Chatto and her husband, Daniel, has a long way to go to reach the throne: He’s currently 23rd in line.

24. ARTHUR CHATTO

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For better or worse, Sarah and Daniel Chatto’s youngest son Arthur has become a bit of a social media sensation. He's made headlines recently as he regularly posts selfies to Instagram—some of them on the eyebrow-raising side, at least as far as royals go.

25. PRINCE RICHARD, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER

Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester makes a speech during the unveiling ceremony of London's first public memorial to the Korean War on December 3, 2014 in London, England
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At 73 years old, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester is the youngest grandchild of King George V and Queen Mary. Formerly, he made a living as an architect, until the 1972 death of his brother, Prince William of Gloucester, put him next in line to inherit his father’s dukedom. On June 10, 1974, he officially succeeded his father as Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster, and Baron Culloden.

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20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins
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To celebrate World Penguin Day (which is today, April 25), here are a few fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds.

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

emperor penguin
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3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

Gentoo Penguin
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4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

penguins swimming in the ocean
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5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

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6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

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7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

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8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to a thousand birds.

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9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

chinstrap penguins
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10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

maegellic penguin nesting
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11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

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12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

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13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

Penguins nest
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14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

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15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.

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