The call echoed throughout the whole bay. We sat in our kayaks; still, eyes closed, barely breathing. A chill came over my whole body. It was the most beautiful, ethereal sound I’ve ever heard and it was radiating through every surrounding nook in this remote section of the Antarctic Peninsula. And then the silence came; the rustling of the water, the cracking of the glaciers, the sound of water bouncing off the icebergs. But within a minute, we heard the call again, along with our stifled gasps and beaming smiles.
We were lucky. A leopard seal was emitting his mating call right in the secluded bay where our expedition vessel, the S/V Australis, was anchored. We had been paddling around in our kayaks for only about 15 minutes when we heard this call. A leopard seal’s mating call is really special and rarely heard; it’s done while the seal is only a couple inches under water in a large bay where the sound can travel far. Our veteran captain later told us that it was the loudest leopard seal call he’s ever heard, and it was much later in the season than normal. Leopard seals typically mate several weeks prior. The captain even went back to our expedition vessel to relay this surreal experience to the world’s leading leopard seal scientists.
We sat there in silence for more than 30 minutes, just listening to this otherworldly noise that can only described as Chewbacca meets an alien. Not too long after, a large cruise ship came into the bay for a “drive-by” scenic view of the area. I smiled; there was no way anyone from that cruise ship had a chance of hearing this leopard seal call, nor did they even have time to really take in one of the most stunning areas in Antarctica.
Exploring Antarctica aboard the S/V Australis provided a much more intimate, personal and quiet experience. Our compact motorsailer, with a maximum of just seven guests, provided the best way to experience Antarctica.
After the cruise ship quickly drifted out of the bay, we kept paddling forward in the waters, excited for the surprises around the next corner on our polar nature expedition.
This guest post was written by Natural Habitat Adventures Adventure Director Sara Higgins. All photos © Sara Higgins.