A Leopard Seal Encounter Is Exciting And Rare
Antarctica is huge, wild and very beautiful. In fact I'd go as far to say that it's a kind of mournful beauty. It is a most alien place and, while you may well experience an affinity with nature and appreciate the good fortune associated with your experience, you'll also likely understand that this is true wilderness where, outside of scientific research and low-impact tourism, humans do not belong. But the leopard seal, it most certainly does.
I was very fortunate to visit the Antarctic peninsula as one of two tutors (the other being David Burren) on an Aurora Expeditions tour which included the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. It was a very special event during which time I made great friends, some of whom I still see occasionally.
How Exciting Being So Close To A Leopard Seal
The above image features a leopard seal sprawled out on a large chunk of ice near Cuverville Island. Check out the weird line running down the seal's back. It seems to be an indentation and/or reflection from the ice on which it had been resting. You might also notice how the line along the seal's side is echoed in a distant cloud and along edges of nearby ice formations.
The leopard seal is an extremely efficient hunter. In fact it's number two on the food chain in the Antarctic region, where it's only enemy is the Orca (i.e., Killer Whale).
Some seals are cute, particularly when they're young. Even the weird-looking elephant seals produce beautiful looking pups whose doe eyes make for very engaging portraits.
Leopard Seal Facts You'll Want To Know
Seals are also wild animals. Some of them catch penguins by the feet and thrash them around, back and forth, on the surface of the water to skin them. Leopard seals in particular are dangerous with wide and powerful jaws and very sharp teeth. Leopard seals can also swim at up to 24 mph and can grow to over 3.3 meters (i.e., 11 feet) in length.
But, despite my apprehension, I was glad to be able to make the image of a leopard seal at peace in its environment. If ever you have the chance the southern seas, particularly South Georgia and the Antarctic peninsula, are amazing travel destinations offering fantastic opportunities for wildlife and landscape photography.