Brown Bluff and Madder Cliffs

Dec 22, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


Our goal was continental today. To step foot on land connected to the very heart of this icy continent is a rite of passage for anyone traveling to Antarctica. But Antarctica is also temperamental. For the better half of the morning, we waited offshore near Brown Bluff, a volcanically sutured outcropping at the extreme northeastern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Gusts blowing at 45–55 miles an hour kept us at bay until, with not much time to spare, the winds let up enough to grant us access for our first steps ashore. We were “officially” in Antarctica.

Surrounded by Adélie and gentoo penguins, we strolled the black-and-white beach as puffs of snow swirled around us, setting the stage for what we hope will be a white Christmas in the days ahead. Through it all, we saw young chicks being fed or sheltered from the elements—until we had to do the same and move on to our next destination.

Though it offered another look at Adélie and gentoo penguins, Madder Cliffs was a markedly different setting than Brown Bluff. A rocky coastline rings the colony here and gives these birds a challenge as they go to and from the sea. Waiting for the right swell to ease them into the water is an art these birds possess—or, on many occasions, clearly do not. From our Zodiacs, we were able to share in their triumph, or defeat, as penguin after penguin either hit the water with ease or bounced off the rocks on their way to get food.

We should all consider ourselves lucky that our meals do not require the same dedication. Safe foraging, my little friends!

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About the Author

Eric Guth

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Eric began work with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic in 2006 as a means to see the world, work with great photographers and engage his environmental studies degree beyond the classroom. His initial years with the company were spent working the waters of Southeast Alaska and Baja California. His move to the National Geographic Explorer in 2008 helped earn him the experience and knowledge needed to establish himself as a trusted boat handler, naturalist and respected photographer in nearly all the environments Lindblad-National Geographic travels.

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