Antarctic Fur Seal
Arctocephalus gazella
The Antarctic Fur Seal (Arctocephalus gazella) is a true story of come-back success. During the early and mid 1800s this animal was hunted almost to extinction. Its fur was highly prized and its pelt brought high prices in Europe and North America. In the early 1900s the hunting stopped because not enough animals could be found to make it worthwhile to hunt them. The island of South Georgia is approximately 15 miles wide by 100 miles long. It is in the South Atlantic about 800 miles northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula. This island became a haven for the Antarctic Fur Seal and its numbers began to steadily increase in the mid and late 1900s. By 1985 it was estimated that 1.5 million animals were on South Georgia and estimates by the year 2000 were at 4 or 5 million. The animal is now extremely common on South Georgia but is also found in lesser numbers on other nearby islands as well as the Antarctic Peninsula. Tourists on Antarctica trips which visit South Georgia become very familiar with this animal which is due a good bit of respect since it can be very territorial and will indeed bite a person if its gets the opportunity. Still, it is an endearing animal and through more than a dozen visits to South Georgia I have grown quite fond of it. These first two shots show males at Gold Harbor, South Georgia in January, 2002. These shots were taken with a Canon EOS 1V and EF 70-200mm F/2.8 L lens on Fuji Velvia. A big male may weigh up to 400 pounds while a female weighs in at about 100 pounds.
The animal at right, probably a young female, was at Jason Harbor, South Georgia, in January, 2003 as was the next animal, asleep on an old tussock grass clump. The shot with the red building shows a typical scene around many areas of South Georgia. This is an old sealer's cabin long since abandoned. Now, the residents of the area are Fur Seals. All these images were taken with a Canon D60 and EF 70-200 F/2.8 L IS lens and 1.4X extender.
This shot shows a young male Antarctic Fur Seal at Gold Harbor, South Georgia. Southern Elephant Seals and King Penguins are in the background. The female below next is scratching, while another male at Gold Harbor keeps a wary eye on me. These images were taken in December, 2003, with a Canon EOS 10D and EF 70-200 L IS lens and 2X extender.