2013 Photo Contest, Nature, Stories, 1st prize

Emperor Penguins

Photographer

Paul Nicklen

National Geographic magazine

19 November, 2011

The flightless emperor penguin is capable of becoming airborne, by swimming at up to three times its normal speed, and launching itself from the water to clear the edge of a shoreline. Recent research shows that the penguins do this by releasing air from their feathers, in the form of tiny bubbles.

About

Paul Nicklen

As a young boy, Paul Nicklen, a Canadian-born polar specialist and marine biologist, moved to Baffin Island and spent his childhood among the Inuit people. From them he learned t...

Background story

Ross Sea, Antarctica 

An emperor penguin shoots toward the surface, in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.

 

Emperor penguins’ body shape and poor climbing ability make it difficult for the birds to haul themselves ashore, especially onto icy or rocky coasts. It is also a moment when they are especially vulnerable to attacks by predators, such as the leopard seal.

But the flightless emperor penguin is capable of becoming airborne, by swimming at up to three times its normal speed, and launching itself from the water to clear the edge of a shoreline. Recent research shows that the penguins do this by releasing air from their feathers, in the form of tiny bubbles. The bubbles act as a lubricant, cutting drag, and enabling the birds to achieve bursts of speeds that would otherwise be impossible.

Technical information

Shutter Speed
1/1250 sec
Focal length
19 mm
F-Stop
5
ISO
400
Camera
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

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