Mum went off early in July, leaving me and dad to look after Junior. The first few weeks went well. Then a blast of cold air and, before I knew it, Junior and I were on the move. Dad's screams receded as our abductors put distance between us. By the time we arrived in their smoky lair, Junior was dead. Without dad to keep him warm he'd had no chance. Shell-shocked, I hardly cared anymore what would happen to me. I'd failed to protect my charge.

An almighty crack. The den's roof had blown off. My three abductors lay low as the blizzard charged for two days. When the storm had passed, they emerged from their cocoons, loaded their belongings, including me and two other captives, onto a sledge, and left. After ten days of hauling in perpetual darkness, we arrived at a wooden hut and my abductors collapsed in the warmth.

Over the next few months, sitting on a shelf in the hut's common room, I pieced together the reason for our abduction. Our abductors were male migrants from a distant colony bent on exploration and scientific research. One of them, Bill Wilson, was an evo-devo researcher. He adhered to Ernst Haeckel's theory that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. According to this theory, embryos from a primitive bird species like ours might provide the missing link between reptiles and birds, show what their common ancestor looked like. Wilson was so convinced of the theory's validity, that he was prepared to risk his own life, and that of his two fellows, to collect the likes of Junior from our empire.

Upon return of the migrants to their home colony, Junior was to be removed from my protection and sectioned for anatomical analysis. But Wilson was unable to make the trip, for he died of cold and starvation along with another of my abductors, Henry Bowers, on a journey back from the South Pole. So, it was the sole surviving abductor, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, forever scarred by the loss of his friends, who delivered me with Junior to the London Natural History Museum in 1913.

Twenty-one years later, the report on Junior's anatomy finally came out. No mention of the missing link between reptiles and birds: Haeckel's theory had been discredited by then. It turned out he had fabricated evidence to support his ideas. He'd had no qualms about playing fast with the truth, so sure was he that his theory was correct. Many had turned a blind eye to these misdemeanours, even though they were known about in Wilson's time. It seems that the mission to collect Junior was built on Wilson's unquestioning faith in the ideas of a scientist who had never questioned his own beliefs. If only they had been more questioning, Junior's life might never have been snatched away.

Yet Junior's short existence was not without consequence. Cherry-Gerrard wrote up the story of our abduction in The Worst Journey in the World, which some say is the greatest travel book ever written. Cherry-Gerrard idolised Wilson and never questioned his justification for the hazardous mission to abduct us. In the introduction to Wilson's biography, Cherry-Gerrard listed the qualities that make a great explorer: courage, unselfishness, health, clean-living, good judgement, tact, faith. ‘And the greatest of these is faith, especially a faith that what you are doing is of use. It's the idea which carries men on. There, if I am not mistaken, you have Bill Wilson.’

Read other ‘Developmental Twists’ by Tsuku Mogami