Antarctica - Leopards & Crabeaters

Submitted by Danny Catt on Wed, 2007/03/28 - 8:56am.
Morning Light Along the Lemaire Channel, Antarctica
Morning Light Along the Lemaire Channel, Antarctica

It is such a delight to wake up to calm seas and amazing light on the peaks that surround you. In the morning we slid our way along the smooth waters of the Lemaire Channel. The landscape and wildlife were spectacular. Gentoo Penguins in the hundreds porpoised their way beside the ship and both Humpback and Minke Whales were sighted surfacing nearby where they were slowly feasting on the abundant food available.

Gentoo Penguins on the Move
Gentoo Penguins on the Move

One of the highlights of the morning for me was the opportunity to get off the ship to observe, interact with and learn about the various Antarctic seals, and in particular the Leopard Seals and the Crabeater Seals. Crabeaters are the most abundant seal species in Antarctica, and although their name might suggest they are “eaters of crabs”… they in fact don’t eat crabs at all. Their main diet, is the same as so many other wildlife species in the region, krill!As mentioned in previous posts, krill is on the menu for dozens of Antarctic birds, seals and whales. Krill are small crustaceans (there are about 17 species in Antarctica but the largest is about 2 inches long) that are part of the plankton. Plankton refers to all of the plants and animals that move along at the whim of the ocean currents. Plant plankton is called phytoplankton while animal plankton is called zooplankton (plankton is plural, plankter is singular).

Crabeater Seal with Krill Smeared on its Stomach
Crabeater Seal with Krill Smeared on its Stomach

There are a lot of Crabeater Seals in Antarctica. In fact, according to the sources I was able to fin, the Crabeater is the most abundant seal in the world with a population estimated between 30 and 70 million. This huge population of seals eat a lot of krill. It is estimated that the population of Crabeater Seals in Antarctica consume an astounding 90 billion kilograms of krill annually! That is a lot of crustacean!

Leopard Seal Chasing a Gentoo PenguinLeopard Seal Chasing a Gentoo Penguin

Leopard Seals on the other hands are the meat eaters of the Antarctic seals. One of their primary food sources are penguins!
Curious Crabeater SealCurious Crabeater Seal

Both Crabeaters and Leopard Seals can be curious and both species allowed us to approach quite closely and in fact both species (at different times) swam alongside (and behind) the zodiac to get a closer look at us.An experience I will not soon forget!

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Submitted by Pikake on Wed, 2007/03/28 - 9:14am.
The photo of the Lamaire Channel is one of my favourites! What wonderful lighting. Awesome....
Submitted by Danny Catt on Wed, 2007/03/28 - 9:35am.

Hola! The light that morning was amazing. Thanks for the kind note!

D :)

Submitted by tyta alba (not verified) on Thu, 2007/03/29 - 5:40pm.

As Pikake I think the picture of Lemaire Channel is amazing !!!!!Nothing todo with our sunrises

T Alba :)

Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/04/03 - 1:13pm.

Thanks for your comment Tyto alba!