National Geographic and Bertie Gregory Release Unprecedented Footage of Emperor Penguin Behavior Filmed for the First Time on the Coast of Antarctica

The Never-Before-Filmed Moment of Emperor Penguin Chicks Leaping 50 Feet Off an Antarctic Cliff Filmed for National Geographic’s Emmy Award-Winning Earth Day Franchise SECRETS OF

Emperor penguin chicks jumping off the ice shelf edge for their first swim at Atka Bay on the Ekström Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Learn more about the historic penguin leap at NatGeo.com. (credit: National Geographic/Bertie Gregory)

--()--National Geographic:

WHO: While on location at Atka Bay on the Ekström Ice Shelf in Antarctica for the 2025 installment of National Geographic’s Emmy® Award-winning SECRETS OF franchise (following this year’s planned SECRETS OF THE OCTOPUS premiering this Earth Day), BAFTA Award-winning cinematographer Bertie Gregory (@BertieGregory) and star of the Nat Geo Disney+ original series ANIMALS UP CLOSE WITH BERTIE GREGORY filmed a group of over approximately 700 emperor penguin chicks on their first trip from colony to ocean only to find a 50-foot drop off a cliff blocking their path. In a stunning turn of events, the chicks began to leap from the summit, smashing into the icy ocean waters below – completely unscathed. This spectacular, heart-stopping moment has been witnessed by scientists before, but this is the first time the rare behavior has been filmed for television.

WHAT: In January every year, a new generation of emperor penguin chicks leave their colony for the first time and travel to the ocean to take their very first swim. This is a rite of passage known as fledging. Emperor penguins usually breed and raise their chicks on sea ice which forms around the Antarctic continent every winter and breaks up every spring. When the chicks are around 5 months old, they lose their baby feathers and travel to the sea where they take their first swim - normally entering the water from a height of about 1-2 feet. However, since the advent of high-res satellite imagery, scientists have been aware that some emperor colonies were breeding and raising their chicks high up on the permanent ice shelves, but it's never been confirmed just how these colonies descended the precipitous ice shelves–until now.

WHEN: January 2024 at Atka Bay on the Ekström Ice Shelf in Antarctica

WHERE: Bertie and the production team from award-winning UK production company TALESMITH lived and worked from a tented camp on the Ekström Ice Shelf near the main Atka Bay penguin colony for almost nine weeks. The team worked for two months in minus 5-degree temperatures and flew drones to the very limit of their capability. Staying through the point of nearby ice breaking up and drifting out to the Southern Ocean, the team filmed until a storm closed in, ending all filming for the rest of the Antarctic summer.

WHY: The rare footage was captured for a new installment of the Emmy Award-winning SECRETS OF franchise, SECRETS OF THE PENGUINS, produced by TALESMITH for Nat Geo, premiering April 2025 as part of Nat Geo’s annual Earth Day celebration.

HOW: Through the harnessing of new technology and pushing the boundaries of polar filming, Bertie utilized a newly released camera drone equipped with a telephoto lens allowing him to capture animal behavior from the air like never before without disrupting or impacting the penguins.

Filming the fledging of emperor penguins presented a unique set of challenges as the passage only takes place when the sea ice reaches its most unstable time of the year. Bertie and his team took every measure to ensure the safety of the crew and wildlife by assembling a world-class safety team.

MANDATORY MENTIONS: For more amazing Earth Month content, check out the ourHOME collection on Disney+. Learn more about the historic penguin leap at NatGeo.com.

VISUALS AVAILABLE: High-res image available HERE. Video available HERE.

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Contacts

Jennifer Driscoll, Jennifer.Driscoll@natgeo.com
Melissa McKeon, Melissa.E.McKeon@natgeo.com

Contacts

Jennifer Driscoll, Jennifer.Driscoll@natgeo.com
Melissa McKeon, Melissa.E.McKeon@natgeo.com