Brown Bluff - Penguins at the Table Volcano

Brown Bluff - Pinguin Party am Tafelvulkan
Brown Bluff - Penguins at the Table Volcano

Antarctica. The brown cliff of the table volcano Brown Bluff rises high above the Antarctic Sound with its many icebergs. In front of it there is a wide, flat pebble beach. With my binoculars I can already see penguins on Brown Bluff, walking along the waterline sometimes in one direction, sometimes in the other. There are said to be several thousand Adelie penguins and a few hundred donkey penguins. I can't wait to get to Brown Bluff on the Zodiac. Because here at the table volcano a penguin party is raging. The visit of Brown Bluff should be the most beautiful animal encounter during my Antarctic trip. Why I love this place so much and what you can see here, you can read in my following article.

Here you can find an overview of all reports from my Antarctic trip.

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Adeliepinguin Brown Bluff
On land penguins can sometimes seem a little awkward.

Here you can read more about my Antarctic trip.

Wet Landing with the Zodiac

The night before was windy and big waves built up. The MS-Expedition is struggling to find a suitable anchorage. The entry into the Zodiac is difficult due to the waves. The gangway is flooded again and again, sometimes the stairs have six steps, sometimes only two. The jump into the Zodiac must therefore be precisely timed. As soon as there are ten passengers on board, we head towards Brown Bluff. Also here the waves are big and break at the pebble beach where we want to land. Our skipper observes the rhythm of the waves and adjusts a more calm phase exactly. Now he turns the Zodiac, folds up the outboard engine and drifts backwards to the beach. Here we are received by eight helping hands and reach the shore a little wet and shaken. The group of Adelie penguins watched us curiously and seemed to enjoy our landing.

 Brown Bluff, Antarktis
The reception committee for the Zodiac. Here at Brown Bluff the waves at the landing point were a bit higher than usual.
MS Expedition, vor Brown Bluff.
Our ship, the MS Expedition, before Brown Bluff.

The Table Volcano Brown Bluff

Brown Bluff - translated brown cliff - is a table volcano about one million years old and 745 meters high. Brown Bluff has its name because of its brown slopes, which are mostly ice-free and reddish brown in colour on the north flank towards the sea. It lies at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula on the east coast of the Tabarin Peninsula on the Antarctic Sound.

The cliff of Brown Bluff consists of tuff rock, i.e. solidified volcanic ash. Horizontal bands show several different eruptions. The relatively soft tuff was later covered with lava and thus protected from erosion. If you take a closer look at the boulders on the beach, you can discover interesting structures in the tuff.

Tafelvulkan von Brown Bluff Antarktis
The table volcano of Brown Bluff is a popular breeding rock for seabirds.
Brown Bluff Tuffstein
The boulders on Brown Bluff beach have very special structures in the tuff.

The volcanic eruptions and the lava flow once took place under the glacier. Therefore the table volcano has its typical shape: The plateau and the steep flanks. At the north flank of the lake, a scree slope stretches up from the beach and ends in the vertically towering steep cliff at a height of approximately 500 metres. The cliff keeps the glacier away from the beach and the north-facing slopes are snow-free early in the year. An ideal breeding place for thousands of birds and penguins and the reason for the rich fauna of Brown Bluff. The beach and the snow-free part of the cliff are therefore designated Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.

Eselspinguine bei Brown Bluff
Brooding Gentoo penguins at the shingle beach of Brown Bluff

On Brown Bluff there is a colony of Adelie penguins with about 20,000 breeding pairs and a colony of gentoo penguins with about 550 breeding pairs. Dominican Gulls, Cape Petrels, Snow Petrels and Gulls of Prey also breed here. Weddell seals are regularly observed on the beach and sea leopards hunt in the waters off the coast. One of our Zodiac groups even observed a sea leopard catching a penguin from the surface of the water while driving in front of Brown Bluff.

Penguin Party at Brown Bluff

Why do I love Brown Bluff so much? Clearly because of the countless penguins. They are everywhere. Penguins as far as the eye can see. The colony of penguins stretches along the whole visible shore of Brown Bluff. In addition, the Adelie penguins are particularly active and curious. It is a real pleasure to observe the animals walking up and down in groups along the waterline. They are looking for a good place to get into the water between ice and waves. A brave person then dares to go ahead and the group follows. When they come out of the water again, the penguins are sometimes thrown onto the beach by the waves. Then the plumage is put in order before it goes back to the nest, where the partner waits with the offspring.

Pinguine Brown Bluff
Penguin Party! Penguins as far as the eye can see.

Most Adelie penguins have two chicks. With their fluffy brown plumage they seem somehow too big. Her body has a funny pear shape, which makes her look extremely clumsy. Even the donkey penguins, which breed somewhat apart from the Adelie penguins, usually have two chicks. One even had triplets and had to stuff three hungry mouths.

Drillinge beim Eselspinguin auf Brown Bluff
Triplets at the gentoo penguin at Brown Bluff

These encounters with the penguins make my heart jump with joy. I tried to capture the uniqueness of the penguins in my pictures. But no matter how hard I try. Something magical remained in these animal encounters, which I simply could not depict.

It is not so easy to find access to the water with so much ice.

In order not to disturb the penguins, a minimum distance of five meters must always be kept. On the pebbly beach, the route marked out with flags by the guides is also to be used. But if you sit on the beach at Brown Bluff, some penguins will get very close to you. The perfect moment for close-ups of the penguins.

There are penguins all over the beach at Brown Bluff, balancing over the stones between the water and the colony.

You want more penguins? Then you're probably interested in my article about the Penguins of Tierra del Fuego and my Tips for great Penguin Photos.

Book Recommendations for Antarctica

Do you want to know where the journey is going? Then I can recommend this travel books* to you.

You can order the travel guides on Amazon by clicking on the pictures. If you buy a product via an affiliate link, I get a small commission and you help me to keep filling Fernweh-Motive with interesting articles. This does not make the product more expensive for you.

Have you ever been to Antarctica in a ship yourself? How did you like it and what were your highlights? Do you have any questions about my article or any other tips for a trip to Antarctica? If so, please write me a comment!

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