Dec 13, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer
We’ve had so many amazing experiences on our expedition thus far; the landscape and wildlife of Antarctica keep delivering. We started the day with a lovely Zodiac cruise among giant icebergs, gentoo penguins, and calving glaciers. A light sprinkling of snow came and went as the clouds rolled by, giving us perfect lighting for viewing the deep blue colors of dense glacial ice. Antarctic terns, brown skuas, and kelp gulls circled and rested atop the mighty sculptures of ice. We took time to sit quietly in the Zodiacs, listening to the crackling of ice and the thunderous roar of calving glaciers in the distance. Cierva Cove, named after a Spanish aeronautical engineer, served as the perfect location to get our day started just right.
After a delicious lunch, we made our way to Mikkelsen Harbor. This rocky islet is located on the southern side of Trinity Island between Skottsberg and Borge points in the Palmer Archipelago. Upon reaching the shoreline, we discovered a small group of Weddell seals napping in the snow. They looked quite comfortable, and we were careful not to disturb their rest as we snapped a few photos and hiked along the hillside to check out the gentoo penguin colony atop the ridge.
Weddell seals, despite their small, smiling faces, are one of the largest species of seal, weighing around 990lbs (450kg). They’re the most southerly of all Antarctic seals and are accomplished divers. During shallow dives, their heart rate slows to 50%; during deeper dives, up to 75%. Most dives last about 15 minutes, but these seals can stay underwater for well over an hour.
The seals we spotted didn’t pay us much attention at all, barely blinking at us as they breathed from one nostril and rested on their sides in the snow.
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