Chris Radburn, Associated Press
Museum curator Heather Lane looks at the two fragile chalk drawings of penguins that were sketched and signed by legendary polar explorers Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott at the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge. The sketches, which date from 1909 and 1904 respectively, were apparently created by the explorers at public lectures and were recently rediscovered in a basement at Cambridge University.

LONDON (AP) — They're penguins, but are they art?

At Cambridge University, the excitement over the discovery of two chalk drawings of penguins on blackboards isn't about the art but about the artists — famed Antarctic explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

Both images, apparently created by the explorers at public lectures, were found in a basement of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the university and put on public display Friday.

"Some people may think they look a little crude but I think they are incredibly charming," said art curator Huw Lewis-Jones. "They were drawn at public lectures in front of an enthusiastic audience, to laughter and to cheers, and then signed with a flourish. It's like having the explorers' autographs, only more wonderful, because each has signed their name next to a hand-drawn penguin."

Shackleton also wrote next to his drawing: "This is a penguin?"

Scott's drawing followed the return of the exploration ship Discovery in 1904. Shackleton made his drawing after returning from the Nimrod expedition in 1909.

Scott and four companions died in an Antarctic expedition in 1912. Shackleton died of a heart attack aboard his ship while trying to circumnavigate the icy continent by sea in 1922.

Lewis-Jones said the university is seeking funding to have the images cleaned and restored.