The Miraculous, Death-Defying Free Fall of the Barnacle Gosling

barnacle gosling free falling off a cliff
Barnacle goslings are forced to make one of nature's most terrifying first steps only hours after being born. (Photo: BBC). (Photo: BBC)

Before you watch the below video, know this: You're going to wince. Don't worry — everything turns out OK, but without some context there's very little to indicate that's going to be the case. This is because the barnacle goose, which breeds on the arctic islands of the North Atlantic, has one of the craziest tests of survival I've ever seen.

In an effort to avoid predators, barnacle geese build their nests on mountain cliffs measuring hundreds of feet high. Makes sense, right? Things take a sharp turn for the crazy due to the fact that the parents, like all geese, do not feed their goslings. Instead, the little ones, only a few hours old, are forced to throw themselves off the cliffs to reunite with their cheering family down below. What starts off as a graceful glide, at least for the lucky, quickly turns into something out of a cartoon, with the goslings ricocheting off rocks on their way to the bottom.

It gets worse. Goslings that do somehow manage to survive the 300'-400' free fall are then faced with outrunning the very same predators their parents were trying to avoid in the first place. Any at all injured by the bumpy trip down generally don't make it. It's seriously one of the most terrifying first 24-hours on the planet nature has devised.

For the new BBC series "Life Story," the first nature documentary shot in ultra high-definition, filmmakers traveled to the cliffs of Greenland to capture this incredible rite of passage. Hold your breath and watch one gosling's dramatic first steps below.