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MailOnline sees the rarest seal of Antarctica, the Ross, during a trip with Oceanwide Expeditions

Like finding a needle in a haystack! MailOnline sees the rarest seal of Antarctica only on the ice below the polar circle

  • Sadie Whitelocks from MailOnline Travel saw the seal at sea with Oceanwide Expeditions
  • Little is known about the Ross seal, because the species lives mainly on the densest pack ice
  • It is nicknamed the “singing seal” because it often assumes an attitude with the head up and the mouth open

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There was a sudden excitement and the ship quickly changed direction.

“The Ross seal is now at four o’clock,” a voice about the PA system told us.

I was on an expedition ship in Antarctica and one of the rarest seals on the continent had just been seen on a lump of ice.

Seal of approval: a photo of the Ross seal, a creature that is notoriously difficult to recognize

Seal of approval: a photo of the Ross seal, a creature that is notoriously difficult to recognize

Little is known about the Ross seal, because the species lives mainly on the densest pack ice

Little is known about the Ross seal, because the species lives mainly on the densest pack ice

De Ross is nicknamed the 'singing seal', because it often takes a position with the head up and mouth open

Little is known about the Ross seal, because the species lives mainly on the densest pack ice. Because it often assumes an attitude with the head up and mouth open, the creature is sometimes called the “singing seal.”

Look, I peered through my camera lens and saw the creature hanging around with big eyes in the gray daylight.

It looked very different from the other seals that were scattered, the Weddell and Crabeater, with a smaller head, shorter muzzle and beautiful striped patterns that run along its neck.

Living by its nickname, the “singing seal,” the fluttered mammal assumed an upright position with its head up and its mouth open. His large black eyes shone like glass marbles.

The assistant expedition leader aboard the Hondius ship, Sara Jenner, explained that they had been informed that a Ross seal was nearby, but it looked like “looking for a needle in a haystack.”

An ICUN report notes that estimates for the global population of Ross seals range from 20,000 to 220,000, but “early estimates were based on a very limited sample and were very speculative.”

Thanks to the crew with eagle eyes, however, we managed to find the mysterious pinniped as we moved along the Crystal Sound channel, which is under the Antarctic circle on the west coast.

Sara added that none of the shipping personnel on board the ship had ever seen a Ross seal and that together they had more than 40 years of experience navigating these icy waters.

After admiring the elegant animal for quite some time, we ventured on our way with the ship back on course.

The Ross seal was seen in the Crystal Sound channel (photo), which is located below the Antarctic circle on the west coast

The Ross seal was seen in the Crystal Sound channel (photo), which is located below the Antarctic circle on the west coast

The Ross seal was seen in the Crystal Sound channel (photo), which is located below the Antarctic circle on the west coast

A map that shows where the Crystal Sound area in Antarctica is located

A map that shows where the Crystal Sound area in Antarctica is located

A map that shows where the Crystal Sound area in Antarctica is located

Later that evening during a daily summary, Hondius’s other expedition assistant, Pippa Low, explained that the Ross seal – named after British polar explorer Sir James Clark Ross – is so rare because the species lives mainly on the densest pack ice during the spring-summer and far offshore in open water for the rest of the year.

A report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) notes that estimates for the world population of Ross seals range from 20,000 to 220,000, but “early estimates were based on a very limited sample and were very speculative.”

It adds that the seals “depend on sea ice for reproduction and may be adversely affected at some point in the future by a reduction in sea ice due to continuous warming of the climate.”

The Antarctic weather was sometimes relatively mild, with a mix of sunshine and rain, and while we were there, the highest temperature recorded for the continent was recorded.

Scientists from Brazil say that the temperature exceeded 20.7 degrees Celsius on Seymour Island and that the World Meteorological Organization is currently verifying the data.

Pippa, still fascinated by the rare seal encounter earlier that day, concluded: “It was just incredible to see this little man within 10 meters of the ship. It was a fantastic observation. ”

TRAVEL FACTS

Sadie Whitelocks traveled on board Oceanwide Expeditions’ Hondius ship. The trip to Antarctica – Discovery and learning starts from € 5,550 (£ 4,600) excluding flights. British Airways and Norwegian regularly provide flights from London to Buenos Aires. Further connections to Ushuaia – the port city where expeditions depart – are with local carriers.

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