Elephant Seals

Two Seals PlayingToday was our last landing day on an island in the Antarctica.   The afternoon was to begin our journey home over the open Southern Ocean and the dreaded Drake Passage back to Ushuaia in Patagonia.

Our good ship dropped anchor a bit out and we took the zodiac to a real neat island, which had a bit of a change today. It was the natural habitat for Southern Elephant Seals. That was a great change-up. Not that I was sick of penguins, because I was not. It is nice to see that the arctic has another type of animal using its great white backdrop.

Getting to the point – as with the Penguins, these seals were not fearful of humans. I guess they don’t see them too often so our limitation to go up and almost touch them was only guided by our naturalists who fed us with some seriously great information about these huge balls of blubber.

When the seal is born, they way 100 pounds. After a month, they grow to 300 pounds. A fully-grown seal weighs the same asSeal rubbing face three automobiles. Massively fat and large. But on the other hand, kind of nimble – of sorts – in a blubberful way.

So we saw the big fellas fight for their harem of females. You heard right, each male has a harem of female giant but dainty seal. The men can fight to the death over their hand-selected ladies. They were flopped on the ground, play fighting, rolling over in the water and just enjoying life after a nice large meal of kelp and krill.

One of the great things that Nat Geo does is provide these serious naturalists – scientists or whatever you want to call them. It always provides a backdrop on what you are witnessing. There are usually between 3-5 of these folks on any excursion.

Anyway, an interesting fact is that the southern Elephant Seal can swim for up to an hour under sea to gobble as much delightful krill as they can take. Apparently their blood cells are different than their human brothers and sisters and it is designed to take in and store huge amounts of oxygen for these long binging cruises under water.

rough seas and icebergThat was fun and also the weather was horrible. The wind had kicked up and showed us what this part of the world could throw at us. Cold, seriously windy to the point where it was hard to stand, wet, gray and that special something that just throws the final pin in the balloon. In fact, the next few groups of zodiacs were limited to only stronger people who could actually handle the wind.  Lucky we came early.

After that adventure, it was time to depart back to Ushuaia. A two-and-half day journey on the Drake Passage until we get to the Beagle inlet on the good and quiet side of the ocean. I have been a bit nervous about this. I knew were lucky on the way here. We had a presentation on weather from one of the scientists and I know enough to be thankful for our nice trip to the Antarctic but was not stupid enough to believe that luck strikes twice.

I was right. My little gremlin in my ear told me that I should prepare for a horrible return.  Didn’t take long — I am shitting in my pants.  Horrible weather on water now that we have entered the Drake.

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