Guests aboard National Geographic Explorer had an exceedingly rare wildlife sighting the other day in Antarctica when they spotted an isabelline Gentoo penguin. This individual has a rare mutation that’s found in about 1-in-100,000 penguins lending it a grayish yellow-blond color instead of traditional black-and-white.
The name of the color, isabelline, comes to us from a story about the Archduchess of Austria’s underwear, believe it or not.
Our undersea specialist David Cothran tells the story: “The color itself is named isabelline, from the story of Isabella, the Archduchess of Austria who pledged that she would not change her undergarments until her husband the Archduke returned victorious from the Siege of Ostend. Unfortunately, the siege lasted not a few days but over three years and by the end of that time, so the story goes, the Archduchess’ undies had taken on the yellow-grey color that now bears her name. Despite the off-color (!) story, it was very exciting to encounter this rare and really quite beautiful bird.”