Seal Soup!

For the past two days we have been working in the Bransfield  Strait. Up until 3 weeks ago, the strait was ice free. Then suddenly, sea ice started to form and move in. Now most of the Bransfield strait is jam packed with first year sea ice and bergy bits.

While doing our plankton net tows, we caught record numbers of krill. In other words, the Bransfield Strait is now paradise for pack ice seals (crabeater, Weddell, and leopard seals). The place was just jam packed with seals. The marine mammal observers counted more than 500 in an hour!

A light snow was falling for a good part of the day, so the seals look extra soft and squishy in the photos. They were only vaguely curious about the big orange ship headed towards them. The ship could get pretty close before they would gallump away.

The penguins were a little more leary of the ship. I only saw them in the distance, and they tended to skitter away from the boat well before the even seals considered moving. I guess being little and tasty makes you more cautious.

Despite recently surviving an attack by a killer whale, this seal still could not be bothered to move away from the ship. We could have jumped and landed on its ice floe as we passed by. Of course, that could be because it was too exhausted from its injuries to move. In my mind though, this seal thinks it can totally take on the ship and win.

Mixed in with all the crabeater seals were some leopard seals. Do not mess with a leopard seal. They will eat anything- krill, penguins, other seals, inflatable boats…  One watched us put our plankton net in water. It was so very cool. You gotta love a top predator.