While wildlife encounters are guaranteed when cruising the Antarctic waters, spotting a seal and getting up-close is something truly special.
Doesn’t it look like this seal’s smiling at us? Nice to sea you, too.
This photo was taken on our 2022 Antarctica Cruise with Atlas Ocean Voyages – an incredible experience that we’ll never forget.
Which Seals live in Antarctica?
Antarctic seals are some of the most fascinating marine mammals that have adapted to the harsh and unforgiving conditions of the Antarctic environment. Several species of seals are found in this region, including the Weddell, Crabeater, Ross, and Leopard seals, each with unique behavioral and physiological adaptations that enable them to survive in the extremely cold and icy waters. Weddell seals, for example, have specialized teeth that help them create breathing holes in the ice, while Crabeater seals possess sieve-like teeth to filter krill, their primary food source. Leopard seals, which are top predators, have a more diverse diet that includes other seals, penguins, and krill. Most of these seals have a thick layer of blubber to insulate them from the cold, and some, like the Ross seal, possess a striking vocalization capability, emitting complex, underwater calls that are not yet fully understood.
Antarctic seals play a crucial role in the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean. They are vital indicators of the health of this environment, as changes in their populations can often signal shifts in local conditions, such as food availability or water temperature. Seals in Antarctica also serve as vital links in the food chain. For instance, they consume large amounts of krill and fish, helping to regulate those populations, and in turn, they provide a food source for apex predators like killer whales and Leopard seals. As human activities such as climate change, fishing, and shipping increasingly impact Antarctic ecosystems, understanding the role and status of seals in this environment becomes even more critical for conservation efforts.
For more information on expedition cruises in Antarctica, take a look at inside-antarctica.com