Knitting jumpers for vulnerable penguins might seem an unusual occupation, but it becomes a little more unusual when the knitter also happens to be Australia’s oldest person – a 109-year-old gentleman.
Having learnt the craft from his sister-in-law, nearly 85 years ago, last year Alfred “Alfie” Date started knitting jumpers to help keep penguins from being affected by oil spills.
Speaking to Channel Nine Mr Date gave some expert advice, “If you’re using a light wool you’re wasting your time.”
Mr Date said staff at the nursing home, where her lives, last year heard he could knit and suggested he put his skills to use and responded to a plea for small jumpers from the Penguin Foundation, a group which tries to protect a colony of the creatures at Phillip Island, about 80 miles south-east of Melbourne.
“I think I’d been in here about 12 hours, might have been 13,” he said.
“The two girls [nurses] come in to me and say ‘We believe you can knit’. I like to make them without mistakes and I don’t excuse myself for doing it.
[But] I think there is an excuse for a person who’s gone beyond the normal span of life,” joked Date of the “easy single-rib and double-rib” stitch jerseys he had been knitting.
The Penguin Foundation said the knitwear helps to protect the penguins from oil spills by protecting them from toxic chemicals and preventing the grease from affecting their ability to hunt or maintain body temperature.
In 2001, the jumpers helped protect about 96 per cent of 438 penguins that came into contact with an oil spill. But a spokeswoman said that at the moment the foundation had enough jumpers for the penguins and did not need more right now.