Behind the Lens: In South Georgia, a Giant Petrel Feeding Frenzy

Nature’s wonders await while aboard a zodiac, with moments that can take the breath away of even the most seasoned photographers and filmmakers. This for sure was the case for Silversea expedition filmmaker Benn Berkeley while on a cruise to Antarctica in South Georgia when he saw a phenomenal giant petrel feeding frenzy first hand.

Zodiacs, of course, are small, inflatable boats that are invaluable when helping travelers to nip into out of the way bays and see wildlife up-close-and-personal.

“The nice thing about cruising around on a zodiac, Benn tells me, “is that in the remote places they access you never know what you’re going to see. It’s very opportunistic in that respect when it comes to experiencing the worlds of wildlife. They’re nimble little watercraft so you can be really quiet and just kind of weave in and out of coves which is why they’re perfect. Plus you’re not encased in something so you feel a part of the action, as you’re getting all of the sound and can watch the behavior. That’s what exciting.”

“I get really excited because you might not see anything – that’s the nature of wildlife – but you might see a kill or something really special and this was just one of those moments where we got there early on.”

Filming Giant Petrels onboard a Zodiac in South Georgia.
Silversea guests cruise to Gold Harbour onboard a Zodiac/Benn Berkeley

Nature’s honesty humbles any lens

Benn grabbed his camera to film the frantic feeding behavior of these birds which are opportunistic feeders as they gorged on a penguin. It was a moment which emphasized that nature’s beauty lies in its truth.

“It was really brutal, but that’s nature. Though petrels do hunt, here they were scavenging,” says Benn, who was thankful to be in a small boat as it meant he could get as close as possible to the unusual bill of the giant petrel.

Filming wildlife spectacles with a quality zoom

“From a filmmaking point of view, you’ve got this situation in front of you and you’re like ‘how do I film this? How do I make this into a scene?’ There’s so much going on so you’ve got to try and think quickly,” says Benn. He opts for a 100-400mm zoom lens in scenarios like this, filming in slow motion each time so he has the option to speed the footage up afterwards.

Filming Giant Petrels during a feeding frenzy in South Georgia
The chaotic nature of the Giant Petrels’ feeding frenzy made for a unique photo opportunity/Benn Berkeley

It’s experiences like this that demonstrate how nature has the ability to silence mankind and stop us in our tracks.

“It’s quite interesting on the zodiac in that people just go quiet, especially if they are a lot of photographers on board, because everyone just goes into their own zone and does their own thing,” Benn says.