Marty’s photo of the day #3149: A leopard seal on a foggy day. This excerpt from my first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents, summarizes the many leopard seal encounters Deb and I had when visiting Antarctica:
As inviting as the water looked, its temperature wasn’t the only reason to stay dry—a curious leopard seal had swum over to check us out. Reaching ten feet in length and weighing up to one thousand pounds, leopard seals are second after orca whales at the top of the Antarctic food chain. The seals are called “leopards” as much for their spots as for their aggressiveness. According to Alfred Lansing’s account of the Shackleton expedition, crewman Thomas Orde-Lees barely escaped when a leopard seal chased him across the pack ice. Even so, unprovoked attacks are extremely rare.
Our seal wasn’t aggressive at all. She’d rise vertically out of the water, look at us, swim underneath our Zodiac, and do the same thing on the opposite side. Once she figured out we weren’t prey or competition, she lost interest and swam off into the mist.