WELLINGTON, New Zealand — He needed a little push before speeding backward down a makeshift slide. Once in the water, he popped his head up for one last look. And then he was gone. The wayward emperor penguin known as "Happy Feet" was back home in Antarctic waters after an extended sojourn spent capturing hearts in New Zealand.
Happy Feet was released Sunday into the ocean south of New Zealand, more than two months after he came ashore on a beach nearly 2,000 miles (3,000 kilometers) from home and became an instant celebrity.
Speaking from a satellite phone aboard the research vessel Tangaroa, Wellington Zoo veterinarian Lisa Argilla said Happy Feet's release went remarkably smoothly given that the boat was being tossed about in 25-foot (8-meter) swells in the unforgiving Antarctic ocean.
Argilla said crew members from the boat carried the penguin inside his custom-built crate to the stern of the ship for his final send-off about 50 nautical miles (90 kilometers) north of remote Campbell Island. The crew had already cut the engines and put in place a canvas slide that they soaked with water from a hose.