Wild about Antarctic Wildlife *Videos*
Antarctica is the darkest and coldest place on Earth, so you might assume that there’s not a whole lot of wildlife around – Wrong! Antarctica is bursting with animals!
It is actually warmer in the Antarctic water than it is on land, so most of the fauna predominately live in the sea: Think penguins, seals and whales.
Penguins – 4 Kinds of Cuties!
Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Chinstrap Penguin
Before my expedition, I didn’t really know the difference between penguins, now I’m watching Frozen Planet on TV and showing off my new-found knowledge of these tuxedo-ed flightless birds. Like:
- Gentoo: The fastest underwater swimmers, reaching speeds up to 36 kilometers / hour. The total breeding population is estimated to be about 300,000 pairs.
- Adélie: Named after the wife of French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville, these penguins live on sea ice except to breed, when they build their nests on land. Climate change and the reduction of ice has hit the Adélie population hard, decreasing it by 65% in the last 25 years.
- Chinstrap: There are a healthy 12+ million chinstrap penguins living on the Antarctic Peninsula (and on floating icebergs during the winter). These penguins can live up to 20 years and are considered the most aggressive of our finned friends.
- Macaroni: With a population of 18 million, the Macaronis are the healthiest of all penguin populations and have a distinctive yellow feather crown. Their breeding colonies can be up to 100,000 thick and they only spend 3-4 weeks nesting on land before returning to the ocean.
More penguin video!
Can’t see the video? Click on this link: More Chinnies!
Seals – 3 Kinds of Stinkers!
There are 35 species of seals on this Earth, but only 6 living in Antarctica. We were lucky to see 3 of these six: Weddell, Crabeater, and a Leopard Seal.
One of the reason there are so many seals surviving in Antarctica is that they have few predators (only Orcas, but not polar bears, and no longer man). And they have some pretty cool sensory advantages:
- Hearing: Antarctic seals have no ears (so they are considered “true seals”), but they can still hear. In fact, they hear as well as humans on land, and better than us in the water.
- Seeing: Like cats, seals can’t see color. Seal vision is improved by a silver lining behind the retina that help their eyes absorb more light, aiding their ability to see in poor light.
- Sonar: Seals use their whiskers for navigation and finding food. This sense is so highly developed that seals can find food better in the dark, than in the light.
- Smelling: As a seal dives into the water, its nose automatically closes and can stay closed up to 30 minutes, when they need to surface for more air.
Whales – 2 Kinds of Coolness
Whales are always amazing to see and we were fortunate to get to great sightings from our ship.
Orcas: The first was a sighting of several Orcas, including a baby! We saw them surface with their black and white markings in full view. Orcas are actually a member of the dolphin family and they eat fish and hunt marine mammals like seals (and whales). There are about 25,000 currently plying the Antarctic waters.
If you ever get a chance, be sure and watch the Orcas highly social behavior and hunting prowess. It’s crazy (scary) to see them work as a sophisticated team to bring in their prey. (p.s. It is now politically incorrect to refer to Orcas as “Killer Whales.”)
Humpbacks: A type of baleen whale, the Humpback can be found in polar waters only during the summer months. They can migrate up to 16,000 miles (25 kilometers) a year and are known for their acrobatic ability, breeching high in the air and slapping their fins on the water.
And this is what we saw! As we heard the announcement of whales over the ship’s speaker system, my cabin mates Dawn and Josh and I peeked out our small porthole window and saw the juvenile Humpback cruise right by, pectoral fin cutting through the water. Incredible!
And, for the record, we saw lots of birds too…
Interested in learning more about wildlife? Check out these articles:
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2012 and is filed under South America.