Rare and Fascinating Wildlife Encounters

We spoke with our Expedition Team to hear some of their most memorable wildlife encounters.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

With every trip to Antarctica, you are guaranteed your fair share of wildlife sightings, from gentoo, chinstrap and Adelie penguins, to the most commonly seen species of seals, whales and birds.

However, there’s always the chance you’ll encounter rare, unusual or interesting wildlife. After all, this magical place is nothing if not surprising. We spoke with our Expedition Team to hear some of their most memorable wildlife encounters.

Jamie Watts
Country: UK
Onboard position: Naturalist, Educational Coordinator, Expedition Leader

“The last couple of years we’ve had sightings of type D orcas – almost certainly a new species that’s only been recorded a handful of times, and once in a while we come across a blue whale, which is always a thrill.”

Hin Ling Estella LEE
Country: Hong Kong, now lives in New Zealand
Onboard position: Host for Chinese Guests

© Estella LEE

“I had a close encounter with Hooker’s sea lions and their pups at New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic Island – Auckland Island. They came up to us and tried to scare us off their territory.”

Jonathan Walton
Country: UK
Onboard position: Lecturer, Historian, Story Teller…and anything else that needs doing

“I’ve seen wildlife in surprising places. I have found a seal 120km from the coast at 1000m altitude. I have had a penguin walk up to me 150km from the nearest water – looking very tired.”

Krystle Wright
Country: Australia
Onboard position: Zodiac Driver and Media Coordinator

© Krystle Wright

“One of the rarest moments I witnessed with passengers on board my zodiac was the moment when a leopard seal was killing a crabeater seal.”

Milagros de Vega Corso
Country: Argentina
Onboard position: Shopkeeper

© Milagros de Vega Corso

“I saw a leucistic gentoo peguin at Gonzales Videla Station. It was not albino because it didn’t have red eyes.”

Nigel Milieus
Country: UK, now lives in New Zealand
Onboard position: Education Program Coordinator and Lecturer

“In the last 3 or 4 years, we’ve encountered type D orcas a couple of times, as well as a brief sighting of strap-toothed whale and a blue whale in the southern part of the Drake Passage. I’ve found Ross seals a couple a times in the Peninsula region (where they aren’t common) and any sighting of emperor penguins there is always special. Even after all these years, last summer I saw two birds I’ve never seen in Antarctica before—a white-rumped sandpiper and pomarine skua.”

Olle Carlsson
Country: Sweden
Onboard position: Lecturer and Guide

“A couple of sightings of rare beaked whales. And an all-black king penguin. The one animal I haven’t seen yet is the Ross seal in Antarctica.”

Sandra Walser
Country: Switzerland
Onboard position: Quality Manager, Media Coordinator and Zodiac Driver

© Sandra Walser

“The chances to see emperor penguins in the Peninsula area are very rare. It happened to us in the 2016-17 season during one of our Polar Circle trips! We encountered a moulting emperor in Lallemand Fjord.”

Anastasiia Ezhova
Country: Russia
Onboard position: Shopkeeper, Zodiac Driver

“We spotted a young king penguin in the South Shetland Islands, which is not where you normally see king penguins.”

Tim Thomas
Country: USA
Onboard position: Zodiac Driver and Sea Kayak Guide

“Two things come to mind—a very rare human/leopard seal encounter, and an almost all black chinstrap penguin.”


If you’ve had a rare or interesting encounter on your polar journeys, please share your experiences and photos with us on Facebook to be featured here!


Header photo of Emperor Penguin in Lallemand Fjord © Sandra Walser

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