109 year old knits sweaters for Penguins

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Alfred ‘Alfie’ Date is 109-years-old and the oldest person in Australia.

He also began knitting over 80 years ago, in 1932, when his sister-in-law taught him how to knit a jumper for his newborn nephew.

In March of 2013, after an oil spill, the Phillip Island’s Penguin Foundation began asking skilled knitters for help creating sweaters to protect penguins from the oil. As a result, people from all over the world started knitting.

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Alfie lives at a retirement home situated along the New South Wales Central Coast of Australia. Two nurses that work at the home heard Alfie was an experienced knitter and so they asked him to help create sweaters for the penguins.  Alfie isn’t one to say no. Using heavy wool provided by the nurses and 80 years of knitting experience, he went to work creating penguin sweaters.

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He uses heavy wool because he says, “If you’re using a light wool you’re wasting your time.”

The sweaters help prevent oil from getting on the penguins’ coats. The oil causes their feathers to stick together allowing water to penetrate into the inner down layers. As a result, the penguins get very cold and distressed, and their coat becomes so heavy it prevents them from hunting.

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When the oil soaked penguins arrived at the foundation, they were put into jackets so that they did not lick at the toxic substance coating their feathers.

Using sweaters on the penguins saved about 96% of the 438 penguins impacted on Philip Island.

Phillip Island has a colony of 32,000 little penguins. Little penguins are a species of penguin you will only find in New Zealand and southern Australia.

With an excess of the knitted sweaters donated for the penguins available in stock, Penguin Foundation now has many knitted sweaters for penguins and there is no need requesting for more.

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Some of the photos show sweaters actually worn for stuffed toy penguins. So many of  the sweaters  were donated to the Penguin Foundation, they had to sell some in order to clear overhead costs.

Alfie still keeps himself busy knitting scarves and beanies for his friends and premature babies, still giving back to his community.

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