Southern Elephant Seals

Elephant Seals: In the Heat of the Battle

Zegrahm Contributor|May 12, 2016|Video

Elephant Seals: In the Heart of the Battle

Please note, this video contains graphic footage; sensitive viewers may find some scenes disturbing. 

On our recent expedition to South Georgia, we were kayaking in Gold Harbour when we came across an extraordinary sight - a battle between two elephant seals! To quote naturalist Kevin Clement, this was truly a clash of titans. Kevin, along with naturalist Conrad Field and marine biologist Rick Price, describe the politics of the battle, as well as how truly rare it is to see such an impressive display in the wild.

 

[FULL TRANSCRIPT]

Kevin Clement, Naturalist: We were kayaking in a place called Gold Harbour, which is one of my favorite areas to kayak in South Georgia, beautiful location crawling with wildlife. But I heard on the radio that there was an elephant seal battle going on somewhere behind us, and we quickly turned around and paddled back to that area, and we found ourselves in the midst of a titanic battle, it was a clash of titans. And this is something that happens every year, multiple times between multiple pairs of elephant seal bulls; but it’s rarely witnessed by people.

Conrad Field, Naturalist: The whole idea here is to create a dominance; when you have a hierarchy, you have the dominant males, the beachmasters. The beachmasters hold the territory right in the middle; then you have subordinate dominants that are above them. They’re trying to come in and sneak from the top, and then you have ones that come in from the ocean. What you witnessed there, were two that were patrolling the beach. They came along and met each other, and they had to prove who was dominant in that area. And so, they fought. And as they’re moving faster and faster and more and more, they’re getting hotter and hotter, and the blood flows more, it’s just like a prizefighter. They’re in the middle of the ring, the hotter they are, the more the blood flies.

Kevin: Being in the kayaks, since the bulls were fighting in shallow water, we got a front row seat, we were right there for the action, it was amazing.

Rick Price, Marine Biologist: This probably is, the first time I’ve seen anything like that, where they’re really going for one another, so, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Kevin: It was the longest, bloodiest, most impressive battle I’ve ever seen between elephant seal bulls…and one of the greatest moments in nature that I’ve ever experienced.

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