Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Close Encounters

Three and a half months ago, I heralded the launch of The Endangered Species Print Project. Since then, the ESPP website has undergone a dramatic face lift and two new prints have been released.

Molly Schafer and Jenny Kendler, the project's founders, have also set up an ESPP blog. One of their recent ESPP blog posts intensified my already robust sense of wonder and reverence.

I'm fascinated by leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx). They're charismatic creatures, and beautiful, too. They are also brutal and fearsome. Their power, underwater grace, and remarkable jaws make them one of the world's supremely adapted predators. Watching documentary footage of a leopard seal hunting penguins, it's impossible not to marvel at the bloody ballet, even if you quietly mourn the death of the seal's popular and plump prey.

My "experience" of the leopard seal is all secondhand and mediated, yet I'm stricken with a quiet awe when I contemplate a film of the seal shadowing through its submarine realm. Imagine, then, how National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen felt during his remarkable Antarctic encounter (and ensuing relationship) with a seal whose "head is twice as wide as a grizzly bear's head."


Please watch the video.

Oh, and think about investing in some ESPP prints for the holidays! If you do so, you'll be giving two gifts: a limited edition print to a happy recipient, and a financial boost to one of the worthy non-profit organizations working to protect endangered species and critical habitat.

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