Talk about close encounters! When Lea McQuillan sat down for a break on Livingstone Island in the South Shetlands, this elephant seal decided to join her. The curious pup cuddled up and crawled into her lap before falling asleep.
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Photographer Roy Mangersnes captured the scene while hosting an Antarctic photo expedition for WildPhoto Travel. He told Rex USA that McQuillan, the ship's hotel manager, and Helen Willcock, the ship's doctor, had come to shore with the group to stretch their legs. When they sat down to rest, however, they were approached by the juvenile seal.
"After smelling the hand of Lea for a while he decided to use her lap as a pillow," Mangersnes said. "It didn't take long before he boldly climbed all the way into her lap and fell asleep on top of her."
Mangersnes said that while people are forbidden from getting too close to Antarctic wildlife, in this case the seal initiated contact and was never a threat, despite its large size. Adult elephant seals can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh up to 8,800 pounds. Mangersnes said this youngster probably weighed between 60 and 80 kilograms (around 130 to 175 pounds).
After resting on McQuillan for a couple hours, the seal slid off and returned to the freezing water.