April 12, 2014

If Voldemort and Smaug had a child…

…it would be a leopard seal.


The second leopard seal I saw was this guy relaxing on an iceberg

Of all the amazing things I saw and experienced in Antarctica, the biggest surprise for me was the leopard seal, an animal that I previously imagined was just a large seal with spots, whereas in fact it’s a dinosaur-sized monster. Polar bears are the world’s largest species of bear and they only go up to ten feet in length. Leopard seals can be as long as twelve feet and weigh 600 kilograms.


The one in the photo above effortlessly swam circles around us while we were in our Zodiac, gliding through the water with the grace of an underwater ballerina. He was quite a show off and reminded me of Smaug, both for his imposing size and his vanity. His nostrils made me think of Voldemort, who has snake-like nostrils instead of a human nose. And he looked evil, cementing his place alongside Smaug and Voldemort, except this villain is real, not made up.


Leopard seals don’t just look evil, they do evil things. The leopard seal above (not my photo) may look like a mean one, but he’s actually a sweetheart. You see, leopard seals sometimes eat their favorite cuts of meat off penguins while they’re still alive and then let the partially-eaten, still living penguin go to die a slow, miserable death without a back or a belly. By tearing the penguin’s head straight off with enough blood and gore to make Quentin Tarantino orgasm, the leopard seal above has ensured this penguin will die a quick and relatively painless death.

I’ve swam with harbor seals before while SCUBA diving in the Pacific Ocean, and I would characterize them as the dogs of the sea. A harbor seal pup came up to me to play and followed me around for 15 minutes of the dive. Curious, playful and cute, the little guy left quite an impression on me, and for a while I imagined all seals were big puppies at heart. Maybe that’s why I had a blind spot for the monstrosity that is the leopard seal, but I’m glad I did. Coming face to face with this marine velociraptor became one of the highlights of my trip to Antarctica! What an animal! (All photos below from web)

Leopard-Seal-Feeds-Photographer-Penguins-650x487 Leopard Seal, Head (Hydrurga leptonyx), South Georgia Island leopard-seal-attacking-penguin