Young albatrosses take many months to mature before they’re ready to take flight and head off to sea. These black-browed albatross chicks have a long way to go before they can lift their wings and become the supreme flyers sailors have admired for centuries. They’re all sitting on mud nests built by their parents, who are searching the open ocean for squid to take back to their downy offspring in the Falkland Islands. I love albatrosses! To me they are among the most amazing creatures on the planet. I never get tired of watching them and photographing them.
Photo by @NASA Celebrate Earth Hour! Turn off your lights for one hour at 8:30 pm, your local time, on Saturday March 25, to show solidarity with Planet Earth and demonstrate our global commitment to fighting climate change. Landmarks all over the world will go dark including the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Sydney Opera House, and the Las Vegas Strip. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Earth Hour, an initiative that was first organized by the World Wildlife Fund in Australia and has grown into a worldwide movement. Join in! We can all be heroes for our planet. This image is the perfect symbol for island Earth, our home.
A handful of visitors is vastly outnumbered by the astonishing concentration of king penguins that gather on South Georgia Island’s Salisbury Plain every year. Brown chicks are mixed with adults ready to start a next breeding cycle. Check my feed @FransLanting for more amazing images and stories of this Antarctic wildlife spectacle.
This male elephant seal is exhausted. He’s lost a lot of his body weight after weeks of fighting and fasting on a beach on South Georgia Island in the Antarctic. If you’re born as a male elephant seal you’re in for a life of all or nothing. Males weigh up to 4,000 pounds; they bulk out like prizefighters to gain a physical advantage over rivals who fight each other intensely to take control over beaches where females haul out. A handful of males get access to most of the females; all the other males are out of luck. Pups are born a year later on the same beach where they’re conceived. Check my previous posts to see how adorable the pups look during their first two months. After that they turn into super-size seals. Stay tuned for more tales from South Georgia, the island of superlatives.
Eyes full of innocence light up the face of this elephant seal pup which is less than two months old. Yet it’s already been weaned by its mother, who nourished it for a month with milk that is one of the highest in fat content of any animal on earth, and now it’s languishing on the shores of South Georgia before it takes a plunge into the cold waters of the Southern Ocean. Elephant seals dive deeper than almost any other marine mammal; some of them go farther down than 7000 feet. It takes more than big eyes to survive down there. Watch out, young seal! Stay tuned for more stories about seals and other wonders from South Georgia, the island at the end of the world.
Happy days are back again for elephant seals on South Georgia. After the island’s massive populations of marine mammals were discovered by sealers in the 19th century, a slaughter began that led to the killing of millions of fur seals and elephant seals, which continued into the 20th century. But today all seals are protected, and elephant seals blanket the beaches in enormous numbers again. Check one of my earlier posts on this feed that shows how many elephant seals and king penguins can be found together here. This young elephant seal is a “weaner.” It’s been pumped full of fatty milk by its mother for a month, and now it’s gaining strength by splashing around in shallow water before it heads offshore into the rich waters of the Southern Ocean. Elephant seals are amazing divers. They go deeper than almost any other marine mammal except for sperm whales. Some seals equipped with depth recorders have been known to go farther down than a mile. We are grateful for this recovery and hope that it can inspire the next level of protection for wildlife in the Southern Ocean.
It takes two to tango, but three is a crowd and four even more. Courting king penguins attract interlopers. Here a male is warding off rivals to protect the female he’s interested in. Another female stands by on the left, watching the outcome of this scuffle on South Georgia, the island of kings. A special message for photographers in the UK: I will be presenting at "The Photography Show" in Birmingham this Sunday March 19 at 3 pm and Monday March 20 at 11 am. This is a brand new show based on my exhibition, "Dialogues with Nature," which was launched this past summer in the Netherlands. It gives an overview of my career featuring images from five of my signature projects produced over a period of 40 years. You'll see classics, but also previously unpublished images and lots of stories. I hope to see you there! @thephotographyshow@thephotosociety@natgeotravel@natgeocreative#Nature#Penguins#picoftheday#naturelovers#attitude
The outcome of king penguin love is one fluffy chick, which takes a year to mature. This one has survived the long cold winter when parents barely come back to feed their offspring. A thick brown feather coat helps with survival. When whalers first reached South Georgia, they were amazed by these penguin chicks, and thought they were a different species than their parents. This chick has only a month or so to go before it will take its first plunge into the frigid waters surrounding South Georgia, which are brimming with sea life that sustain spectacular numbers of penguins, other seabirds, and marine mammals. This is truly one of the great wildlife sanctuaries on the planet. Stay tuned for more stories about the future of South Georgia and the king penguins who live there.
King courtship is a ritual affair with solemn greetings and ceremonial behavior that makes it easier for males and females to bond with each other. Here a male is draping his bill around the neck of a female who indicates with her bowed head and drooping flippers that she’s willing to go along to the next stage of coupling commitment. Stay tuned for what happens next. Follow me @FransLanting for more images from South Georgia, the island of kings.
It’s always rush hour on the beaches of South Georgia Island. In this time lapse, masses of king penguins are coming and going into the water with a few fur seals mixed in. Check our other posts @FransLanting to learn more about the amazing life history of king penguins on this spectacular island near Antarctica.
King penguins molt before they start a new breeding cycle. On South Georgia Island masses of kings gather along glacial streams where they stand for several weeks while they shed their old feathers. During their molt, they cannot go to sea to feed because they are losing their insulation. So all these birds are fasting. They’ll drink water or eat snow, but that’s it. They lose a lot of weight but at the end of their molt, they look like brand new birds with striking yellow-orange neck patches that indicate they’re ready to breed. @natgeo@thephotosociety@natgeocreative@natgeotravel#Penguins#Nature#WildlifePhotography#picoftheday#Wild
A mass of king penguin chicks has turned their backs against a snow squall on South Georgia Island near Antarctica. They were all born the year before, and during the summer months their parents fed them as much as they could before the food chain collapsed at the end of the season of plenty. During the long winter months the parents go way offshore and the chicks barely receive any nourishment. Yet amazingly many of the chicks survive this ordeal, and now they are awaiting their parents to come back to nurture them to independence. I’ve shared the epic survival story of emperor penguins with you before, but to me, king penguins are just as unique in their adaptation to extreme circumstances. Stay tuned for more amazing stories from South Georgia, the island of Kings.
A mass of king penguins has gathered in shallow water just off South Georgia Island. They’re busy socializing and cleaning themselves. There’s a lot of commotion when this many king penguins get together. Soon they will head to sea for a feeding trip into the rich fishing grounds that surround the island. I made this image at the beginning of a new king penguin breeding cycle, and all the adults are looking their best. Stay tuned for more stories from South Georgia, the island of kings.
I recently returned from the Antarctic and will be sharing some images and stories this week. Perhaps my favorite place in that part of the world is South Georgia Island. Its beaches are always packed with wildlife dependent on the rich marine resources of the Southern Ocean that surrounds this remarkable island. In this image you can see multitudes of elephant seals and king penguins mixed together. The seals were just finishing up their breeding season. For the king penguins it is a more complicated story. You can see adults in their immaculate plumage as well as fluffy brown chicks. More about them in a next post!
This jaguar is an embodiment of explosive strength as it is stalking a caiman in Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland. Jaguars are jungle cats throughout much of their range in Central and South America, and it is difficult to get more than a glimpse of one of these powerful spotted cats as it blends in with the surrounding forest. But in the Pantanal, jaguars come out into the open more often, because their favorite prey, caiman and capybaras, are often hanging out on river banks.
Fifteen years after I photographed Zawadi when she was just a cub, I crossed paths with her again in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, when she was an old female. She still lived in the same area after all those years! Zawadi was also named “Shadow”— and like her famous mother, Half-Tail, she was featured in the BBC’s Big Cat Diary television series. Millions of people saw her grow up. A leopard doesn’t change its spots they say, and it’s true. Match up the spots on Zawadi’s face in this picture with the other photo I posted yesterday of Half-Tail with Zawadi when she was only a few months old. The spots stay the same over time. Most leopards don’t reach 15 years of age in the wild as Zawadi did. It’s tough being a leopard, especially as a lone female. You have to cope with lions, hyenas, and people too. I followed her for a while and then lost her, the way you always lose leopards eventually—in thickets, where they slink out of view.
Here’s a famous female leopard named Half-Tail, grooming her cub named Zawadi. Half-Tail was one of the first leopards in Kenya’s Maasai Mara to tolerate people and vehicles near her. That’s how she became known as an individual leopard. She became a star when the BBC started following her for its “Big Cat Diary” television programs. My friend and colleague, wildlife photographer Jonathan Scott, was a presenter for that series, and he knew her very well. Thanks to Half-Tail, millions of people got a better sense of what it’s like to be a leopard. She got her name because she lost a portion of her tail in a baboon attack. Half-Tail raised her cub, Zawadi, in public, and that in turn helped Zawadi herself to be more accepting of people in vehicles. In this image, Zawadi is only a few months old. Stay tuned for a next post that shows Zawadi many years later.
The most powerful cat in the Americas is peering out from a cover of grasses along a river bank in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands. Jaguars grow big here because of an abundance of prey that includes capybaras and caiman which they stalk along the rivers. They combine the stealth of a leopard with the strength of a lion. But unlike lions, they’re solitary. In parts of the Pantanal jaguars were persecuted by ranchers and they were practically invisible, but in a few places where they are not harassed, they can often be seen in the open—evidence that protection works.
Leopards are feared more than any other animal by bonobos and chimps, because they can climb trees, unlike lions and cheetahs. Any sense of a leopard nearby will send a group of bonobos or chimps into a frenzy. Their social defense of banding together and creating a screaming commotion is usually enough to keep a leopard at bay, but at night, leopards have the advantage of being unseen. Our fascination with big cats is based on a deep ancestral fear and an admiration for a formidable adversary. @natgeo@natgeotravel@natgeocreative@thephotosociety#Leopard#BigCatsWeek#Botswana
Kanzi is a uniquely talented bonobo. He was born in captivity and learned how to communicate with humans at an early age, mastering a vocabulary of symbols developed by Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh at her research facility. Over a period of 30 years, Kanzi has had many complex conversations with Sue that reveal his emotions and his ability to empathize with others. When I spent time with him, I was struck by his social intelligence. He was totally tuned in to the intentions and emotions of people around him, including me. Along with common chimpanzees, bonobos are our nearest of kin, but we have not exactly treated them like family. In the wild, bonobos, also known as pygmy chimps, only occur in a remote part of the Congo Basin, where they are threatened by civil unrest and the bushmeat trade.
Baring your teeth at someone is normally a sign of aggression. But here, Lana, a captive female bonobo, was doing it as a way to provoke a reaction from me. Bonobos and humans are so closely related that we share many facial expressions—and an ability to use deception to get what you want. That is exactly what Lana was doing here. She was feigning aggression to get my attention—and to me, that is evidence of a social sophistication that crosses species boundaries. I spent several days observing Lana and others in her family group for a series of intimate portraits to help people understand how unique bonobos are. For more images and stories see my book, “Bonobo, The Forgotten Ape,” co-produced with Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal. @natgeo@natgeotravel@natgeocreative@thephotosociety#Attitude#GreatApe#Bonobo#Aggression
This is Lana, an intelligent, feisty, female bonobo making eye contact with me. Bonobos are our closest relatives on the great tree of life, along with chimpanzees. She’s a captive bonobo, and I spent time with her for a series of portraits that reveal personalities and attitudes, to combine with the images that I made of bonobos in the dark jungles of the Congo Basin. Lana has lost most of her facial hair, and that makes it easier to see ourselves in her. After all, we as humans are truly "naked apes,” as Desmond Morris once called us in his classic book by that title. For more stories, see my book, “Bonobo, The Forgotten Ape,” co-produced with Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal. Our book aimed to help people understand how unique bonobos are and how they differ from chimpanzees. @natgeo@natgeotravel@natgeocreative@thephotosociety#Attitude#Ape
Bonobos are our closest relatives on the great tree of life, along with chimpanzees. In the wild they only occur in a remote part of Africa’s Congo Basin where they are threatened by the bushmeat trade and civil unrest. I spent time with bonobos in the dimlit jungles of the Congo and combined that work with intimate portraits of captive individuals to reveal their personalities. This image shows a female named Loretta in a pensive pose. She became the cover for my book, “Bonobo, The Forgotten Ape,” co-produced with my friend, Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal. Our book was the first extended profile of bonobos for a popular audience, and helped people understand how unique bonobos are and how they differ from chimpanzees. I share this image in celebration of the upcoming World Bonobo Day, February 14.
Here’s another view of the breakup of one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, known as B15. It once measured more than 4,000 square miles—11,000 square kilometers—but it has fallen apart into numerous giant tabular icebergs, seen here in the distance, grounded along the Antarctic Peninsula. Each of them is at least 300 feet tall. The smaller pieces in the foreground are the last remnants of an iceberg the size of Jamaica that started its life on the other side of Antarctica more than ten years ago. It’s mind-boggling to witness this monumental process caused by the rapid warming of our planet. Check the front-page story on the New York Times today, February 7, 2017, about another colossal iceberg in the making in Antarctica. Keep following us for more stories about ice in our time.
Photo by @FransLanting Every iceberg tells a story. Each one is a snapshot of water frozen in time. I photographed this blue diamond just a few weeks ago along the Antarctic Peninsula, but by the end of the austral summer— this March—it will be gone. The clarity of the water in spring here is exquisite because it’s not yet clouded by the abundance of plankton that blooms in the summer. Ninety percent of all ice on Earth is contained by Antarctica, and as our planet warms, ice shelves and glaciers dislodge an ever-larger portion of it each year into the Southern Ocean, where most icebergs melt away in a single season—adding to sea level rise. That’s how the life cycle of ice far away affects everyone living along a sea coast anywhere. Follow me @FransLanting for more images and stories about our changing planet. @natgeotravel@natgeocreative@thephotosociety#Antarctica#Iceberg#PhotographersForAntarctica#ClimateChange
I share this image in memory of Lennart Nilsson, the great Swedish photographer who passed away last week at the age of 94. Lennart unveiled the invisible through his groundbreaking use of microscopic photography. Inspired by his work, I adopted microscopes for our LIFE project to reveal the intricacy of diatoms, among the most abundant life forms on the planet—and crucially important for food chains in the oceans, fresh water, and soils. Without them, there would be no fish, no penguins, no whales. Here is one image I made at Harvard University, which houses an extraordinary collection of diatoms.
Lennart was driven by a desire to illustrate vital processes that concern us all, whether they take place inside the human body or express themselves through other life forms on earth. I remember his enthusiasm when I met him in Stockholm in 2005, when he honored me with an award in his name. We went to his studio in the basement of the Karolinska Institute—where the Nobel Prize in Medicine is announced every year. He had just received live samples of a new virus, lethal to humans, but that he was determined to photograph. I share with Lennart a feeling of wonder about the connectiveness of all life on earth and a belief in the power of photography to reveal new worlds.
Here is a small portion of one of the biggest icebergs to break off from the Antarctic ice shelf in recorded history. This gigantic tabular iceberg was tracked by satellite and given the name B15. It was measured at more than 4,000 square miles—or 11,000 square kilometers—that’s a quarter the size of my home country, the Netherlands! Historic changes are underway in Antarctica as a result of global warming. Is this the shape of things to come?
In the stillness of twilight glowing in a cloudless sky, water flows around the mounds of ancient stromatolites in Western Australia’s Shark Bay. These mounds are created by living communities of aquatic bacteria. They grow very slowly. A stromatolite mound three feet high could be 2,000 years old or more. The ancestors of these stromatolites produced the oxygen that began to alter our Earth’s atmosphere three billion years ago. That change made it possible for oxygen-breathing animals like ourselves to evolve. The sky’s burnished color suggests an atmosphere when it contained virtually no oxygen.
“Earth in the Making” Lava explodes from Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. Volcanoes, like geysers, are part of the plumbing system of planet earth that connect its interior with the atmosphere. I made this image after dark while camping at the edge of the crater. It was a wild experience, with the earth rumbling under our feet.
This may look like a vision of an alien planet, but it actually is a geyser from Nevada’s Great Basin. Primitive bacteria stain its sides with fantastic colors while hot water erupts from deep underground. Some scientists believe that this is the kind of extreme environment where life may have begun on earth billions of years ago. Please note that this exquisite geyser is very fragile, and it's located on private property not open to the public. I photographed it with special permission from the owners. Thank you for respecting their goal to protect this amazing place. Learn more about the history of life on earth on our website, lanting.com. @natgeo@natgeotravel@natgeocreative@thephotosociety#Geyser#Nature#Earth
From a helicopter hovering over a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park, amazing patterns invisible to visitors on the ground become clear. Steam rises from the boiling blue water in the center and the stains along the edges are caused by primitive bacteria. I made this image for our LIFE project, which is a lyrical vision of the history of life on earth. To learn more about the LIFE book, exhibition, and multimedia symphony, please check "Projects” on our website, lanting.com. @natgeo@natgeotravel@natgeocreative@thephotosociety#Yellowstone#Nature#Earth
Photo by @FransLanting “Rebirth” New forests of coastal redwoods are growing tall again close to where I live in Santa Cruz, California. They were nearly wiped out in the 19th century when forests were clearcut for the construction boom in San Francisco. California’s oldest state park was established in 1902 in the Santa Cruz Mountains to save the last giants.
Photo by @FransLanting “Surf’s Up” Today I'm celebrating true power. When winter storms hit the California coast, they can trigger monster waves in special places, and one of those hot spots is not far from my home near Santa Cruz. Here is a clean view of a big barrel made from a small boat lined up just outside the break known as Mavericks. Stay tuned for more winter scenes from our coast.