This young elephant seal is what’s known as a “weaner” — recently weaned and about 2-3 months old. I refer to it as “he”, but we really couldn’t be sure what the gender was. Scroll down for more info.
I was part of an expedition with Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris, my second trip with them to Antarctica. The excellent Cheesemans’ staff made sure that all expedition members understood and followed the rules for visiting this wilderness: no food, no waste, maintenance of distance from the wildlife, and appropriate behavior around the animals. We were directed and reminded that we should walk slowly at all times, and not disturb or touch any of the wildlife.
On the islands and mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula, the required distance is 30 feet (10 meters) from a nesting colony of penguins or other birds, and 15 feet (5 meters) from “loafing” animals. But, if wildlife approaches you, closer proximity is allowed. There is no baiting, feeding, or approaching the animals to facilitate interaction with visitors. All close interaction happens by chance and is initiated by the animal itself.
We landed at Livingston Island to observe a Gentoo penguin colony, and there were also adult elephant seals lounging on the beach. I wasn’t expecting to see such a young elephant seal pup, and that’s why I sat down to watch and photograph this little guy as soon as I saw him come onto the beach. I was thrilled when he approached me. None of us who were privileged by his company reached out to touch or pet him — we let him touch us and interact with us and stay or leave as he wanted. I think if we hadn’t had to go back to our ship when we did, he would have stayed there and taken a long nap next to us.
This encounter was a high point of an amazing expedition that included The Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, and the Antarctic Peninsula. Information about Cheesemans’ Ecology Safari expeditions around the world is available at: www.cheesemans.com. My husband’s fine art photography from this and from an earlier trip to the Southern Ocean can be seen at: www.stevegouldphotography.com
I was using a Canon Vixia HF M500 camcorder with an external Rode microphone. This video was edited with Premiere Elements 11.
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