Photographer Chronicle: Face Off with A Dangerous Predator

Always great to view  beautiful pictures on magazines, books and on the web.  Some photographers, mostly the great ones really risk their lives and limb to get that great shot, to capture the moment, so that we can see their experience through the eye of their camera lens.

Here is one video that highlights such an adventure.  The assignment was to take photos of the leopard seal.  The leopard seal lives in the cold waters surrounding Antarctica. During the summer months, it hunts among the pack ice surrounding the continent, spending almost all of their time in the water. In the winter, it ranges north to the sub-Antarctic islands. Occasionally, individuals may be spotted on the southern coasts of South America, Australia, and New Zealand, and as far north as the Cook Islands. Juveniles are more often found in the north.  The Leopard Seal is a solitary creature and comes together in small groups only when it is time to mate. The female digs a hole in the ice and, after a nine month gestation, the female gives birth to a single pup during the Antarctic summer. She protects the pup until it is able to fend for itself.

They are very quiet except for some grunting and growling noises.The leopard seal is bold, powerful and curious. In the water, there is a fine line between curiosity and predatory behavior, and it may ‘play’ with penguins that it does not intend to eat.

Leopard seals are potentially highly dangerous towards humans, but attacks are rarely reported Examples of aggressive behavior, stalking and attacks have been documented, notable incidents include:

  • A large leopard seal attacked Thomas Orde-Lees (1877 – 1958), a member of Sir Ernest Shackleton‘s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1917 when the expedition were camping on the sea ice.[8] A large “sea leopard” of approximately 12 feet long and 1,100 pounds chased Orde-Lees on the ice. He was only saved when another member of the expedition shot the animal.
  • In 1985, Scottish explorer Gareth Wood was bitten twice on the leg when a leopard seal tried to drag him off the ice and into the sea. His companions managed to save him by repeatedly kicking the animal in the head with the spiked crampons on their boots.[8][9]
  • In 2003, a leopard seal dragged snorkeling biologist Kirsty Brown of the British Antarctic Survey underwater to her death, in what was identified as the first known human fatality from a leopard seal.

Leopard seals have previously shown a particular predilection for attacking the black, torpedo-shaped pontoons of rigid inflatable boats, necessitating that researchers equip their craft with special protective guards to prevent them from being punctured.

Paul Nicklen describes his most amazing experience as a National Geographic photographer – coming face-to-face with one of the arctic’s most vicious predators.