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Wildlife in Antarctica


Article by Sherry Ott

Photography by Sherry Ott

How to Travel to Antarctica: The Ultimate Guide was originally published in Otts World

Read Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 of the Ultimate Guide

Wildlife in Antarctica

The wildlife in Antarctica is vast and certainly special. 

From birds to seals, to penguins, to krill, to whales – they all go on in their circle of life hunting each other in the freezing cold waters they have adapted to. 

A pack of orca (killer) whales hunt/aggravate a minke whale. This was a stunning sight – our expedition staff estimated that there were about 100 orca whales around us. Absolutely stunning.

When humans step into their world, they barely blink.

A seal may stretch and look up for a moment before settling back down for a nap. A penguin may stop and stare, and then move right on by you within inches, knowing that you are no threat.

Seeing these animals in their natural habitat was a privilege – and it also probably ruined me at the same time. 

Most days it felt as if you had walked into a Discovery Channel show – completely surreal.

Some of the highlights were being able to see some rare sights – such as a leopard seal nursing her young, a large pack of Orca whales (50 to 100) harass a few Minke whales, and 3 Fin whales (the 2nd largest animal on this earth) surface in front of our ship – directly in front of the ship! 

In fact, you can see the Fin whales in this video I shot – they were so close I couldn’t even get them into the frame!

Here’s just a few of the animals we saw and I was able to capture on my cruise to Antarctica. I was able to get close to thanks to kayaking and some great zodiac maneuvering by the Expedition staff!

But by far my favorite of the wildlife we saw was the penguins.

If Antarctica Had a Mascot, It Would be a Penguin

If Antarctica had a mascot, it would most definitely be the penguin. 

They are the main population on Antarctica, and they are damn cute. 

Sure – they smell…badly – but I found the odor pretty easy to overlook in light of their general adorableness. I personally think they could make a run to de-thrown the mighty teddy bear or puppy for most adorable creature.

Antarctica is home to 6 species of penguins – Adélies, Chinstraps, Emperors, Gentoos, Macaronis, and Rockhoppers. 

They mainly eat krill or fish and they have no real predators on land except skua birds who steal their eggs. 

Their predators in water are the leopard seal and the orca whales, but they can live in harmony with seals on land – a strange site.

Penguins are the perfect mascot to represent the continent – they are always dressed formally and ready to turn on the charm at a moment's notice.

I even did research on what makes a good mascot and came up with the following qualities according to marketing and business geniuses and applied my findings to the mighty penguin:

A Mascot Should Provide People with a Sense of Comfort

These creatures know how to take care of things…especially their offspring. The females and males spend hours making sure their offspring are comfortable and taken care of. This mother penguin readjusts her eggs ensuring they are comfortable.

This male penguin brings yet another rock for his beloved’s nest ensuring his mate and future chick are comfortable.

A Mascot Should Have a Good Pose

On a scale of 1 to 10 – I rate penguins' poses an 11. These little creatures are noisy and sort of sound like a herd of donkeys at times – but all of that yapping makes for great photos.

A Mascot Should Convey Motion and Energy

Penguins are more industrious that I was expecting. They create a complex maze of penguin highways to get to and from their rookery through the melting snow. The path is used by all of the penguins so it doesn’t take long for the path to get stamped down and a highway is formed.

Penguins displayed most of their energy in the water as they lept through the water like dolphins with ease and grace.

A Mascot Should Be Like-able, Cute, and Happy

Easy – I never saw a happier animal. They were so unafraid of humans that they would walk right up to you and look you over.

A Mascot Should Have a Personality of Its Own

Each penguin seems to have a personality – which is an oddity if you ask me. At times they seemed more human than birdlike. They would fight and play with each other with gusto. It was easy to spot the bullies, the popular penguins, the gossips, and the smart ones.

And a Mascot Should Always Have a Comfortable Suit that Allows for Movement and Interaction

I’d say the penguins of Antarctica have the suit part taken care of.

Follow Sherry Ott @ottsworld

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