National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen took on an assignment that he likely would never forget: He was asked to photograph leopard seals, the most vicious species of seals on the planet. Leopard seals have been known to attack humans, so, understandably, Paul was somewhat reticent to take on the project.

But when it came time for him to meet these undersea behemoths face to face, he was greeted with something he did not anticipate…

The leopard seal, also known as the sea leopard, is absolutely huge.

This highly aggressive predator is known to be highly dangerous towards humans.

Multiple incidents of these large predators stalking and attacking people have been recorded throughout history.


So National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen was understandably shaken when he was asked to dive with them in the wild.

“I slipped into the water, terrified of what might happen, and I swam up to this leopard seal…,” Paul said. “My legs were shaking, I had dry mouth…”

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“She took my whole head and my camera inside her mouth and did this threat displays…But then the most amazing thing happened…”

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“She went off and got me a live penguin, and she came up and started to feed me a penguin.”

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“And right away she dropped the penguin. She came up to me and she opened her mouth…and her head is twice as wide as a grizzly bear’s the head. Just huge.”

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“She kept letting these live penguins go and the penguin would shoot past me and she’d look disgusted as she’d go by me. She did this over and over…”

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“She started to bring me weak penguins, then dead penguins, then she showed me how to eat penguins. She would offer me partially consumed penguins.”

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“She started to take penguins and actually push them into my camera. I think she thought the camera was my mouth, which is every photographer’s dream. This went on for four days.”

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“And then I think she realized that I was this useless predator in her ocean, probably going to starve to death and I think she became quite panicked…”

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“So, here I came to Antarctica, to photograph this potentially vicious animal, to have this predator, this top predator in Antarctica, take care of me, and nurture me, and feed me for four days straight.”

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“It was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had as a National Geographic photographer,” said Nicklen.

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What an unexpected surprise!

This amazing encounter would be every photographer’s dream!

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