Weddell seals are very hardy, resourceful
and quite remarkably behaviourally adapted for life in the Antarctic
pack and fast-ice as these two pictures show. In the top picture,
the seal has found a breathing hole through pieces of only partially
consolidated pack-ice where there is a non-frozen portion that is nonetheless
filled with slush. From below such a region will let considerably more
light through than the thick pack-ice pieces and stand out like a beacon
to a seal swimming by, even if it is solid, it will be thin and probably
thin enough for the seal to break through. Weddell seals have no land-based
predators and so there is no danger to them of coming up to such breathing
holes, just the odd surprise if there's a wandering scientist nearby
to capture the moment on camera.
The lower picture is of a Weddell
seal that has made a hole in apparently unbroken, though quite thin
fast-ice and hauled out for a rest. We came across this seal while out
several miles from the shore on recently formed and very hard and strong,
but disconcertingly thin ice. In fact we didn't realise how thin the
ice was until we came across this seal and the hole it had made. It
was entirely unperturbed by a group of 5 people manhauling a heavily
laden sledge with camping gear as we went off on our holidays and treated
us as if we weren't really there at all. Seals probably live a fairly
surreal life anyhow.
Photo; © Paul Ward - Pentax equipment,
100mm lens, 35mm film, K64.
This picture may not be copied or
used in any manner without prior written permission.