Antarctica Adventure - 2002

young males were actually more interested in confronting each other than they were in us but we were still careful to give them their space. Lazier ones were just snoozing in the blessed sunlight. When we passed by them at eye level (we were walking in a streambed below the shelf they were lounging on), we could see why they had been hunted almost to extinction. Their fur is really quite beautiful in texture and colors and it has terrific insulating properties. It is estimated that before sealing started in the nineteenth century, there were approximately 2 million fur seals in the world. When sealing was halted, the population was down to a projected 60,000. Now, just 40 years later, there are about 4 million fur seals in the world and their exploding population is putting pressure on habitats of other creatures everywhere because they are taking so much space on the few beaches available. Scientists speculate that this enormous overpopulation is due to the abundance of krill in the ocean. That krill is so extraordinarily available because there are not enough whales left to eat it down and the fur seal population is out of hand. Whales are slowly coming back with the whaling moratorium except by a few countries like Japan and Iceland, so it is hoped that the food supply for fur seals will level off so that they get back down to more manageable numbers. The sunlight was magnificent and seemed to lift both human and animal spirits. The penguins were playing in the surf and washing themselves and beating their flippers back and forth with impressive speed.


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