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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Crab-Eater Seals Take a Break

Air Date: Week of

A crab-eater seal slides on the ice in front of the remnants of a shipwreck. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

The South Shetland Islands are home to sea birds, penguins, and a variety of other Antarctic wildlife. Living on Earth's Explorer-in-Residence Mark Seth Lender shares a story of the crab-eater seals relaxing on the Antarctic ice. 


BASCOMB: The South Shetland Islands in the Antarctic are a haven for a huge variety of wildlife including sea birds, seals and penguins. Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender has more.

Do-nothingCrabeater SealSouth Shetland Islands© 2020 Mark Seth LenderAll Rights Reserved

LENDER: Two crabeater seals, one older one younger (related perhaps) drag themselves out, and up, and onto the worn basalt crowning from the sea just beyond the fast ice. And lay down there. The head of the one to the tail of the other fitted, like parts, of something larger. Except there is no room for anything larger. Them, it suits. One yawns, palate as purple as a lilac tree in bloom, teeth shaped like nutmeats but sharp and meant not to be chewed but to do the chewing. Potentially. Because, after that yawn... Inanimate. Not so much as a shrug. Crabeaters, taking a break.

Two crabeater seals bask in the Antarctic sun. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

They will take one anywhere they can. They have no country. No allegiance of terrain except for an easy in, and an easy out. The chinstrap penguins nearby, they are the regulars. They have more particular wants. Noisy, temperamental, in constant transit from island to sea to island to sea. It is early for them to nest but they are considering it, examining each and every possible location and what will work and what will not. Conflict is the predictable consequence with space at such a premium. Two get into a flipper fight slapping each other in a way that does no damage but probably stings. No doubt enough to get the point across. While the crabeaters ignore all of it. They simply remain in place. Silent. Neither stretching nor shifting their bulk nor arching their bodies as seals sometimes do to adjust their contact with the ice. Which means the crabeaters are neither cold nor hot. Are neither hungry nor overfull. If life is tough, they aren’t telling. Or if it is easy, and good. Their point is to be there. And they already are. But just as easily their place could be... somewhere... Else.

BASCOMB: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender.



Mark Seth Lender’s website

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