Nerd Time: The Leopard Seal

UntitledA few years ago, I got really into reading accounts of extreme adventures and explorations. There’s something comforting about sitting in the warmth of your living room while other people haplessly freeze to death, fall of cliffs, catch on fire, have their still-beating hearts removed by Mayan priests, or  get half-digested in a the stomach of a whale and emerge bleached and peevish.

During this time, I read two accounts of the Shacktelton expedition. Basically, Shackleton and his mates head off from the south pole, but their boat gets frozen in ice in the Weddell Sea, effectively trapping them for 6 months of dark Antarctic winter.  Adorably, they actually stage puppet shows and stuff like that in order to maintain their sanity. Eventually, the ship is crushed by ice and the crew is forced to float around on giant ice bergs for months trying to sail their way out of the sea to land.

All sorts of terrible stuff happens, but one thing that was really a head-scratcher for me was the frequent account of attacks by Leopard Seals. Leopard Seals? Apparently, this is a species of carnivorous seal specific to the Antarctic. Shackleton and his crew are constantly trying to drift off to sleep on their flying ice floe when this leopard seal thing clambers out of the sea and starts attacking them. Apparently, it’s a worst-of-both-words proposition, in the sense that the Leopard Seal is dangerous (like a non-seal) but totally fatty and non-nutritious (like a seal). So, once they kill it, there’s still nothing in it for the beleaguered crew

All this makes for a good scenario to re-enact with guests as an after-dinner game. Just commandeer a few sofa cushions to use as ice floes.

(Above: real Leopard Seal cranium. Eek.)

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