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Photo Essay
Under Antarctic Ice
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 ©2003 Norbert Wu/

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With little to fear from predators, this Weddell Seal mother and her pup allowed me a close-up view as they floated in shallow water beneath their breathing hole. Females give birth on the ice, and most pups are born by late October. The pups weigh about 55 pounds at birth, compared to 900 pounds or more for the mother, but they gain almost five pounds a day drinking their mothers' rich milk and can weigh over 200 pounds when weaned.

A few weeks after they are born, their mothers begin to coax them into the water. The youngsters have only a short time to learn the fundamentals of caring for themselves and navigating the world under the ice before they are left to their own devices. Within fifty days of birth, their mothers will have deserted them.

--Norbert Wu