To begin the adventure, we had to board a helicopter at the Hotel-Chateau Madelinot on the Magdalena Islands.
There were two helicopters (later three) each capable of taking five or six passengers to the ice. The trip out and back lasted
3 hours with 30 minutes to an hour being consumed by the flight to the ice.
Below, a group of participants walking out to the helicopters from the hotel.
The Hotel-Chateau Madelinot has been conducting these tours for more than twenty years. In the early nineties the ice was
thick and the trips a great success. However, in 2010 and 2011 the trips were cancelled because the ice was too thin--a
consequence of global warming. This year the trip was uncertain, but eventually the trips did go but with very thin ice. As we
arrived at the seals, we could see lots of water and uncertain ice.
All the little black things in the picture below are mother harp seals. The babies are there as well, but being white, they do
not show up in the picture.
On the first day to the Harp Seals, February 29, one of the guests from Japan broke through the ice in a terrifying
Our first outing was on March 1. We were given ski poles to poke the ice ahead of us for any soft spots in the ice. We
were told to avoid dark spots as they signified thin ice.
We had to watch our step carefully as there were holes all over where the mother's emerged.
Not only did we need to watch for holes so as to not fall in, but we were also warned to watch for a sudden emergence of a
mother. While there was no problem approaching a harp seal pup, we were told to avoid getting near a mother as they
could attack. Indeed, we had hardly arrived on the ice when a mother harp seal lunged at our fellow traveler Gunther from
Germany and bit his arm. Fortunately the suit protected him and he was not hurt.
Females mature sexually at age five to six. Annually thereafter, they bear one pup, usually in late February.