Paul Nicklen: Emperors of the Ice

Paul Nicklen: Emperors of the Ice

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen photographs emperor penguins in action, and risks being mistaken for his subjects by some very hungry predators.


9 - 12+


Arts and Music, Biology, Earth Science, Oceanography, Experiential Learning, Geography, Photography

NG Live

This video was filmed on November 15, 2012 as part of the National Geographic Live! Lecture series at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., United States.


National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen uses his camera to reveal the nature of a world melting away under human-induced global warming. "I call myself an interpreter and a translator," Nicklen says. "I translate what the scientists are telling me. If we lose ice, we stand to lose an entire ecosystem. I hope we can realize through my photography how interconnected these species are to ice. It just takes one image to get someone's attention."

Whether he is ice diving among leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) in Antarctica, covering hundreds of miles of terrain in minus 40°C (minus 40°F) temperatures, or mastering aerial shots from his ultralight plane, Paul Nicklen has specialized in photographing polar regions since 1995.


  • Introduction: emperors of the ice (start-0:55 min.)

  • Setting the scene: an underwater world and the size of icebergs (0:56-2:18 min.)

  • An exciting assignment and the opportunity to capture micro-bubbles on film (2:19-3:27 min.)

  • Teenage penguin behavior (3:28-4:59 min.)

  • A leopard seal's mistake and the courage to continue onward (5:00-9:05 min.)

  • Leopard seal behavior (9:06-9:43 min.)

  • Audio: Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) in water (9:44-10:30 min.)

  • 200 emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) return from feeding at sea (10:31-11:38 min.)

  • A micro-bubble revelation: how emperor penguins use micro-bubbles as an escape strategy (11:39-14:35 min.)

  • How micro-bubbles work: emperor penguin behavior underwater (14:36-16:56 min.)

  • Video: emperor penguins releasing micro-bubbles (16:57-17:20 min.)

  • A different perspective: looking at emperor penguins exiting the water from the ice (17:21-18:56 min.)

  • The impact of climate change on emperor pengiuns (18:57-20:39 min.)


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Page Producers
Nina Page, National Geographic Society
Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 13, 2022

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