breeding colonies of this flightless sea bird once gathered on rocky
islands and coasts of the North Atlantic in Canada, Greenland, Iceland,
the British Isles and Scandanavia. A strong swimmer, the great auk
migrated to winter as far south as Florida and southern Spain.
extermination began with a slaughter for food and eggs by local inhabitants,
but its fate was sealed when bird feathers became fashion items.
- On June
4, 1844, three fishermen named Jon Brandsson, Sigurdr Islefsson and
Ketil Ketilsson made a trip to the Icelandic island of Eldey. They
had been hired by a collector named Carl Siemsen who wanted auk specimens.
Jon Brandsson found an auk and killed it. Sigurdr Islefsson found
another and did the same. Ketil Ketilsson had to return empty handed
because his companions had just completed the extinction of the great
museum has in its collections a single egg.
The egg was presented to the University by Mr. R. Hay Fenton who had
purchased it, at a cost of 190 guineas, at an auction in London on
February 9, 1909.