Antarctic Fur Seal - Arctocephalus gazella

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Antarctic seals

In the 1700's and 1800's, fur seals were almost completely wiped out by sealers. Captain James Cook visited the island of South Georgia in 1775 and reported that there a great many seals present. This led to sealers setting sail to bring back the pelts of these animals. They were very popular for their dense short fibred fur that was made into ladies coats.

Within 25 years of being discovered, the catch in one summer was 112 000 animals. By 1822, the southern fur seal was virtually extinct on South Georgia. Ironically perhaps, it was the quest for new populations of fur seals that led to much of the early exploration of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. By the beginning of the 1900's the southern fur seal was a rare animal indeed, a single male was sighted on South Georgia in 1916 and duly killed.

Photo; © Paul Ward