Why did U.S. State Department purchase frozen penguin pineal glands from Argentina?

Are you in the mood for a mystery?

Among the treasure trove of documents obtained by WikiLeaks is a very curious telegram on August 1, 1973, sent from Buenos Aires, Argentina to the U.S. State Department, concerning the shipment of frozen penguin pineal glands. The telegram says the shipment would arrive in Boston on August 4, 1973.

Below is a screenshot of the telegram:

In August 1973, William P. Rogers was Secretary of State in the Richard Nixon administration.

Penguins are native to the Southern Hemisphere. A common misconception is that penguins are only found in Antarctica. In fact, major populations of penguins are found in Angola, Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Namibia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Several penguin species are found in the temperate zone: one species, the Galapagos penguin, lives near the equator!

Two interesting and really cool things about penguins:

  1. Their flippers have at least three branches of the axillary artery. They limit heat loss from flippers by enabling cold blood to be heated by blood that has already been warmed. This system allows penguins to efficiently use their body heat and explains why such small animals can survive in the extreme cold of Antarctica.
  2. Penguins can drink salt water because their supraorbital gland filters excess salt from the bloodstream. The salt is then excreted in a concentrated fluid from the nasal passages.

But why was the U.S. State Department so interested in penguin pineal glands? Searching around the net, this is what I found:


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