Monday, May 26, 2008

Seals, seals, and more seals!

Yesterday morning, I was in the process of doing building rounds, and when I wandered out of the aquarium to head down to the pumphouse, I realized there was something very large, very fat, and very lazy blocking my path.

Here's a more zoomed-out shot so you can get a better idea of exactly where this guy was. That little building is the pumphouse, where I was heading to do the daily maintenance checks. That didn't happen today, as I found this guy at about 10am, and he was still there at 5pm.

That's the pumphouse, where I needed to go to fix something.  This guy had other plans.

Now, the more eagle-eyed of you will notice something in that above photo. The fat elephant seal wasn't the only seal laying around at that time. See that black thing in the upper left? That's a fur seal.

Some people describe these guys as "dogs of Antarctica", as they do act very similar to dogs, in the way they roll around, and their playfulness and curiosity. Unlike the elephant seals, though, these guys can move surprisingly quickly on land, and occasionally have been known to be sort of aggressive (unlike elephant seals, which on land aren't capable of doing much more then barking at you).

A shot from the far right with both of them. Next to the elephant seal, who is shaped like a big ball of fat, the fur seals look positively elegant. And from talking with the divers, fur seals are FREAKISHLY nimble in the water. Elephant seals are, well, basically just a big blob of fat. Underwater they can move alright, but mostly they rely on being fucking big as a defensive tactic.

Eventually, the elephant seal woke up and pointed it's face in our direction. This one was very young, judging both by it's cute babyface and small size. Fully grown, the males easily push 5,000lbs and 18 feet long.

It's really strange how close you can get to them without them seaming to care that much. Then again, they were probably just trying to nap, and then all these stupid humans keep pointing these big tube things at them that make these loud clicky noises. The elephant seal would generally follow me with his eyes for a minute or two at a time, before deciding that I was boring and going back to sleep.

He seemed pretty content using this rock as a pillow. Looked very comfy.

That seal off to the left was a fur seal. He was actually a lot more interesting, as he would actually move around a bit, but he was far less interested in the silly humans then the elephant seal was, I don't think he ever looked in my direction. He would occasionally get up, flop his fins around a bit, stretch, roll over, and go back to sleep. Was awfully cute to watch, though. I think I'm going to make some short animations of the rapid-fire stuff I got of him shuffleing around. I think this photo below seriously needs some sort of capition, like "Awww, mom, I don't wanna go to school today!" or "ow, sunlight is bright". Something like that.

This guy SERIOUSLY reminded me of a dog. Just in the way that he rolled around on the rocks and things, in the way that dogs do.

Anyway, that wasn't the end of the seal appearances for the day. A leopard seal floated by, asleep on an iceberg. Now, if you're going to be afraid of any animal in Antarctica, it's going to be leopard seals. They are SERIOUS predators, and have been known to attack humans, as well as just about anything else that swims. They're VERY fast, both on land and in the water, and are massively strong with huge teeth and a jaw that fits around just about anything. And they have very few natural predators themselves, Orcas are just about the only thing that they have to be afraid of. Fortunetly, this guy seemed more interested in napping on his nice little floating bed of ice. He was on this 'berg for at least a few hours, floated all the way from one side of the station to the other, and barely acknowledged our presence.

And finally, here I managed to get all of them in the same shot:

And this was just a cool lucky shot. A bit under-exposed, as the camera was calibrated for the seals, but maybe I'll lighten it up some in photochop. Looks WAY better at full res.

Anyway, that's it for now. I'll put more up later.

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