Time to get in the water, ya?
November 12, 2009 1:39 PM   Subscribe

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen (previously) relates the harrowing tale of a sweet, insistent, and ferocious lunchmate (note - clip begins with a dramatic drumbeat, mind your speakers)

As a side note, jontyjago has shown us that human/leopard seal encounters do not always end well.
posted by Hypnotic Chick (37 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
that's hysterical.

"Hunh - this one with the crunked-up mouf don't likey the penguin. Not even the deady ones. Well, I NEVER!"

*swims away*
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 1:43 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is awesome.
posted by Bageena at 1:46 PM on November 12, 2009

While I knew they were carnivores, I was still surprised at how impressive their teeth are.
posted by tommasz at 1:47 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

They guy should have at least tried a taste of penguin, the seal was being so gracious and all it was the least he could do.
posted by idiopath at 1:53 PM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]

Reminds me of my grandmother! Only substitute "penguin" with "kugel".
posted by not_on_display at 2:04 PM on November 12, 2009 [18 favorites]

Reminds me of my grandmother! Only substitute "penguin" with "kugel".

Your comment is best appreciated by someone like me who is familiar with Kegels but not kugels.
posted by gurple at 2:08 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, tell me about it. The last time I was at your grandma's house she put my whole head in her mouth as if she were going to eat me alive, and then she changed her mind and started throwing casseroles at me.
posted by idiopath at 2:08 PM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]

Your grandmother is a top predator who can open her massive powerful jaws 160 degrees?
posted by A-Train at 2:10 PM on November 12, 2009

The most incredible experience he's ever had... as a National Geographic photographer.

Huh. I need to get out more.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 2:10 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

Come to think of it, I like to think that perhaps she's the venerable and nigh-spiritual leopard seal all-mother who protects and cares for all of the leopard seals. And she just thought he was a horribly deformed one, who she loved and attempted to care for nonetheless.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 2:15 PM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]

My grandmother used to force penguins into my mouth. She'd say EAT EAT LOOK AT YOU YOU'RE SO THIN! And then she'd tell me about her childhood in Poland, and how much harder it was to hunt penguins there, and why she had to leave because of the antisealmitism.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:23 PM on November 12, 2009 [20 favorites]

Guys, it was a LEOPARD seal. It was a big swimming cat doing the equivalent of bringing you wee decapitated mousies every day.

But seriously, that is incredibly awesome. And he was incredibly lucky.
posted by maudlin at 2:27 PM on November 12, 2009

Huh. Why is that coat still swimming and eating?
posted by GuyZero at 2:32 PM on November 12, 2009

posted by Decimask at 2:37 PM on November 12, 2009

That is fantastic.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:00 PM on November 12, 2009

Awesome, incredible story. The photos are amazing but that water must have been freezing. I simultaneously want and do not want to be him.
posted by geeky at 3:02 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Officially awesome.
posted by jsavimbi at 3:05 PM on November 12, 2009

I thought hunting was harder than that. She just kept going to get him more penguins, like there was a case full of them at the Qwik-e-mart around the corner.
posted by whatnotever at 3:13 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

My god, that's amazing. Amazing.

(The poor leopard seal probably thought the photographer was some sort of defective baby leopard seal....or just very stupid. I get similar looks from my cats when they bring me toys or bits of fluff.)
posted by rtha at 3:24 PM on November 12, 2009

I watched a documentary the other night about people who live and work in Antarctica. I just stumbled across it as a trio of Weddell Seal researchers were describing their work, living on an ice floe, studying the seals underneath.

They were saying how you can hear he seals calling through the ice at all times of the day and night and what a strange, haunting experience it was - they then played some recordings. I now have a new favourite animal - forget humpbacks whining and moaning sadly to each other in the lonely deep - these little guys have freakin' laser battles!

Pinnipeds FTW!
posted by JustAsItSounds at 3:29 PM on November 12, 2009 [9 favorites]

A sad day for penguin-kind.
posted by boo_radley at 3:30 PM on November 12, 2009

she just kept bringin' him penguins
like a little cat brings you a mouse
like she had a little penquin convenience store
just down the street from her house.
of course he should've eaten some penguin
that would've been the gracious thing to do
i know i would've certainly taken a bite
and i'm sure that you would've too.
so next time you're in the arctic, my friend
and a leopard seal brings you a treat
show some manners, and show some gratitude,
and eat, why don't you! EAT!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:31 PM on November 12, 2009 [14 favorites]

I feel like PENGUIN tonite
like PENGUIN tonite
like PENGUIN tonite
posted by Mike Mongo at 4:18 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

so next time you're in the antarctic

/polar nerdiness
posted by rtha at 4:21 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

great. now i want a leopard seal.
posted by msconduct at 4:49 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Started imagining a conversation among some feral cats, about how they just met this enormous biped, and it threw edible stuff at them! Some of the stuff was weird, but there was also some meat! and cheese! and that was delicious! And if you wouldn't eat the stuff, the biped would try something else -- it was amazing. But then another cat tells how a similar biped it met kicked it. They all agree, bipeds are unpredictable, but yet, fascinating. A couple of them consider adopting one.

I think what may be most surprising about this story to me is that the photographer understood the seal. And that the seal was willing to speak. very. slowly.
posted by bearwife at 5:10 PM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]

Very cool. I know I am anthropomorphizing, but that seal looked like it was smiling in some of the photos!

Makes me laugh to think about how puzzled the seal must have been at the photographer's ineptitude:

Here, try this penguin. It's really stunned, practically dead! Even you will be able to manage this one!

No? OK, then, I will get you one that really is dead.

Good lord, you can't even cope with that can you.

posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:23 PM on November 12, 2009 [10 favorites]

I love it!

I'm with the crowd who says that the seal thought the photographer probably dim.

For all we know that seal thought it adopted itself a fun little mentally subnormal pet that ran away after four days.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:58 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I love that the seal brought progressively less challenging prey to her photographer. It's like in the wake of obvious cues, she was trying to gauge the age of the photographer-creature by working backwards. If he had continued to meet with the seal, would she have begun trying to nurse him?
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 6:03 PM on November 12, 2009

i have not eaten
the penguins
that were on
the ice floe

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

forgive me
they were gross
so raw
and so cold
posted by kcds at 6:27 PM on November 12, 2009 [10 favorites]

The Leopard Seal must have thought he was Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs.
posted by Del Far at 7:50 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's the part that will keep my from taking his job: he's in antartica in a Zodiac (rubber boat), granted he's ready to go swimming and take pictures - but still, he see's a carnivore with very large teeth, that could very well see him as a meal, swimming in the water. Instead of soiling his dry-suit at the thought of this thing eating him alive he gets in the water to take pictures - that is just nuts. I mean I'm glad he did it but, wow.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:48 PM on November 12, 2009

I really want to show to an old friend of mine, simply because she would be utterly disgusted and horrified and would probably punch me.

Not too long ago, we were sitting around the patio table, having drinks and conversing about the animal kingdom, specifically the bits of it we could do without - I nominated the bloodsucking parasites, another person coined the term "shit pandas" for raccoons. At some point, the topic of seals came up, and my friend - let's just call her J - said, "Fuck seals. Seals can go down for all I care. Even when I hear about baby seal being clubbed, I'm like WHOO YEAH! I hate seals."

And we said,"?"

"When I was twelve, we went to Sea World with my family. I was so excited and happy to be there. We were feeding the seals fish and stuff, all like, "Awww cute! Lookit the seals. Aww, here you go!" And then, this big gross male opens up his mouth and vomits, like a firehose, gallons of saltwater and bile and dead fish and guts RIGHT INTO MY MOUTH. IN. MY. MOUTH.
So if you're wondering why I can't even be in the same room with fish without being nauseous, that's why. To hell with seals. I hope they go extinct."

As amazing as I think this is, this would be J's "Two Girls, One Cup."
posted by louche mustachio at 2:29 AM on November 13, 2009

I was expecting the seal to put the camera in her mouth, but when he said "the camera and MY HEAD" - wow. I don't think I could have stayed in the water for four minutes, much less four days.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:17 AM on November 13, 2009

About 15 years ago there was a great story in the paper about an Antarctic expedition where they were unable to get their camp packed up and shipped before Winter. One of the guys stayed with the camp all winter and we heard the occasional interview with him on the radio. In the Spring, the rest of the team came back to organize the camp.

They were walking out on some transparent ice, when a leopard seal smashed through the ice, grabbed one of the people, and started dragging him back to the hole. The others managed to kick the seal loose and drive him away.
posted by sneebler at 7:44 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sweetie Darling, I heard that as "the camera and my hand." But maybe that was just my brain saving me from dying of terror.
posted by whatnotever at 6:26 PM on November 13, 2009

NPR Interview with Nicklen.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:03 PM on November 22, 2009

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