Diving moments to remember  –  face-to-face with a 600-kilo leopard seal

SteveJones SGJ-ANT10-C opt

What's so special about diving? It's those magic moments that we treasure - a lucky, once-in-a-lifetime encounter, a beautiful vista, the excitement of descending on a big wreck for the first time… These are our diving moments. To celebrate 20 years of publishing DIVE, we asked our top correspondents over the years to select their special moments. Here's Steve Jones'…

For me, there is no animal more engaging than a seal. Yet even with a multitude of dives under my belt with grey seals in British waters, my first encounter with a leopard seal was a different matter altogether. 

Second only to the orca as the top Antarctic predator, they can grow to over three metres and weigh 600 kilos, with a varied diet that ranges from krill to penguin, and even other seals.Their fearsome reputation weighed on my mind as I slipped into icy water that barely touched minus 1ºC.  

Their fearsome reputation weighed on my mind as I slipped into icy water that barely touched minus 1ºC.  

Initially, there was no sign of life until an Antarctic fur seal hurriedly exited the water as three leopard seals suddenly made their presence known.

The behaviour seen here is a form of dominant play, where the seal ‘mouths’ its own reflection in the dome port.

I’d love to tell a tale of a cool, calm wildlife photographer bravely holding his nerve behind the lens as this event unfolded. However, the reality is that every cell in my body was screaming ‘run away’ as the seal repeatedly engaged me in one of the most thrilling experiences of my diving career.

•Steve is a widely published underwater photographer and a regular contributor to DIVE. He runs www.millionfish.com







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