Crabeater Seals lounging on the pack ice. After sailing south for four days, we arrived off Cape Adare early in the morning. The sea was calm and the sun was shining. The ship was surrounded by ice bergs glistening in the bright sunshine. The peaks of Antarctica were visible ahead of us. Adelie Penguins were dotted around on the ice floes as was the occasional Crabeater Seal. Assorted sea birds flew around the ship. It was a magical scene. We took to the zodiacs for a beautiful, late morning cruise in the Ross Sea with Cape Adare providing a stunning backdrop. There was a gentle swell causing the ice floes to move slowly up and down.
We found two Crabeater Seals lounging on the pack ice. These seals are almost always found only on Antarctic pack ice as far south as 70oS. These are the world’s most abundant pinniped with perhaps up to 50 million animals. Surprisingly, they feed on krill using specialised teeth that allow them to filter out the krill – rather akin to baleen in whales. At night, when the krill is near the surface, they are often attacked by Orca and Leopard Seals. This leaves many of Crabeater Seals deeply scarred, a feature which can be used diagnostically to identify these seals so common are these injuries.