Robert Marc Lehmann is a marine biologist, research diver and prize-winning nature photographer. In HEROES WORLD, he tells us about the stories behind his images.
South Georgia is a small island archipelago in the southern Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between the southern tip of Argentina and the Antarctic. Its landscape is mountainous, barren and desolate. Any search for lush greenery or trees would be in vain, and large settlements are also absent. Today, this former whaling base is completely deserted, save for a handful of British government officials – as the island is sovereign British territory – and a few researchers. Nevertheless, things can still get pretty cramped on the island.
This is because South Georgia is one of the most important breeding grounds for the king penguin. You can always see, hear and smell these comical creatures from far away. As Robert Marc Lehmann explains, the king penguin is the world’s second-largest penguin species, after the emperor penguin. They grow to around one meter tall and weigh around 15 kilograms. Up to 400,000 of them live on South Georgia. “The calendar photo only shows a small portion,” reports the photographer and marine biologist. The entire colony is substantially larger.
In addition to the king penguins, many millions of macaroni penguins, elephant seals, fur seals and other species of seal also live on South Georgia. The archipelago is a vital habitat for these animals, some of whom form colonies and raise their young exclusively in this region.
And, as sweet as the penguins might look in this photo, Robert had to hold his nose behind the camera. Ultimately, if you want to observe king penguins, you need to have a strong stomach. Tens of thousands of these diminutive creatures can create an almighty stench. “Everything is sludgy, everything is brown and everything stinks – what a beautiful image,” says Robert with a wink, recalling his efforts to get the shot.