Rare and Fascinating Wildlife Encounters in Antarctica

We spoke with our Expedition Team to hear about some of their most memorable wildlife encounters.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Wildlife Encounters in Antarctica

With every trip to Antarctica, you are guaranteed your fair share of wildlife sightings, from Gentoo, Chinstrap, and Adelie penguins, to the most commonly seen species of seals, whales, and birds.

However, there’s always the chance you’ll encounter rare, unusual, or interesting wildlife in Antarctica. After all, this magical place is nothing if not surprising. We spoke with our Expedition Team to hear some of their most memorable wildlife encounters.

Whales

Jamie Watts
Country: UK
Onboard position: Naturalist, Educational Coordinator, Expedition Leader

“The last couple of years we’ve had sightings of type D orcas – almost certainly a new species that’s only been recorded a handful of times, and once in a while we come across a blue whale, which is always a thrill.”

Orca sightings on Antarctica21's Sea Voyages and Air-Cruises. Photography by Richard-Craggs.

Orca sightings on Antarctica21’s Sea Voyages and Air-Cruises. Photography by Richard-Craggs.

 

Sea Lions

Hin Ling Estella LEE
Country: Hong Kong, now lives in New Zealand
Onboard position: Host for Chinese Guests

“I had a close encounter with Hooker’s sea lions and their pups at New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic Island – Auckland Island. They came up to us and tried to scare us off their territory.”

Seals & Penguins

Tim Thomas
Country: USA
Onboard position: Zodiac Driver and Sea Kayak Guide

“Two things come to mind—a very rare human/leopard seal encounter, and an almost all-black chinstrap penguin.”

Jonathan Walton
Country: UK
Onboard position: Lecturer, Historian, Story Teller…and anything else that needs doing

“I’ve seen wildlife in surprising places. I have found a seal 120 km from the coast at 1000 m altitude. I have had a penguin walk up to me 150 km from the nearest water – looking very tired.”

Close up photography of Gentoo penguin in Antarctica, by Ruslan Eliseev.

Close up photography of Gentoo penguin in Antarctica, by Ruslan Eliseev.

 

Seals

Krystle Wright
Country: Australia
Onboard position: Zodiac Driver and Media Coordinator

“One of the rarest moments I witnessed with passengers onboard my zodiac was the moment when a leopard seal was killing a crabeater seal.”

Leopard seal, photo taken by Ben Osborne on one of our Antarctic wilderness expeditions.

Leopard seal, photo taken by Ben Osborne on one of our Antarctic wilderness expeditions.

 

Penguins

Milagros de Vega Corso
Country: Argentina
Onboard position: Shopkeeper

“I saw a leucistic gentoo peguin at Gonzales Videla Station. It was not albino because it didn’t have red eyes.”

Sandra Walser
Country: Switzerland
Onboard position: Quality Manager, Media Coordinator, and Zodiac Driver

“The chances to see emperor penguins in the Peninsula area are very rare. It happened to us in the 2016-17 season during one of our Polar Circle trips! We encountered a moulting emperor in Lallemand Fjord.”

Anastasiia Ezhova
Country: Russia
Onboard position: Shopkeeper, Zodiac Driver

“We spotted a young king penguin in the South Shetland Islands, which is not where you normally see king penguins.”

King penguin chick in the Falklands, photography by Rodrigo Moraga

King penguin chick, photography by Rodrigo Moraga

 

Wildlife in Antarctica – Whales, Seals, Penguins & Birds

Nigel Milieus
Country: UK, now lives in New Zealand
Onboard position: Education Program Coordinator and Lecturer

“In the last 3 or 4 years, we’ve encountered type D orcas a couple of times, as well as a brief sighting of strap-toothed whale and a blue whale in the southern part of the Drake Passage. I’ve found Ross seals a couple of times in the Peninsula region (where they aren’t common) and any sighting of emperor penguins there is always special. Even after all these years, last summer I saw two birds I’ve never seen in Antarctica before—a white-rumped sandpiper and pomarine skua.”

Profile picture of a Skua sea bird, photographed by Ruslan Eliseev, for Antarctica21.

Wildlife in Antarctia, a profile picture of a Skua sea bird, photographed by Ruslan Eliseev, for Antarctica21.

 

Whales & Penguins

Olle Carlsson
Country: Sweden
Onboard position: Lecturer and Guide

“A couple of sightings of rare beaked whales. And an all-black king penguin. The one animal I haven’t seen yet is the Ross seal in Antarctica.”

 

If you’ve had a rare or interesting wildlife encounter in Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic on your polar journeys with us, please share your experiences and photos with us on Instagram to be featured here!

For more information about our wilderness expeditions, view our brochure here.

 

Header photo of Emperor Penguin in Lallemand Fjord © Sandra Walser

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