Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



mother and pup Weddell seals

NSF Polar Program

U.S. Antarctic Program

The National Zoo's Antarctica Expedition is sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs.

All photographs depicting Weddell seals were taken under NMFS Permit No. 763-1485-00 issued under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.




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The National Zoo in Antarctica

National Zoo scientists are heading south again—way south! Read all about the first season of their Antarctic Expedition.

A team of scientists from the National Zoo and collaborating institutions is in Antarctica studying how Weddell seals manage to rear young in the harsh and unforgiving conditions of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.

We followed the team's activities for its first season, and are following the team again, now that everyone has gotten settled for a second season on The Ice. As we journey along, you'll learn about:

  • The Expedition—read dispatches and see photos from “The Ice,” and find out who is on the team and what our home base is like.
    Read the Dispatches From the Ice. (Season two)
    Read the Dispatches From the Ice. (Season one)
    Did you know? The team had to pack in all the toilet paper needed for a whole season.

  • Our Science—what we know about Weddell and other seals and what we hope to learn.
    Did you know? Weddell seals' milk is so rich that pups quadruple their birth weights in only six weeks.

  • Seals and Sea Lions—these animals are built well for their icy environment.
    Did you know? Their blubber is used for both insulation and an energy reserve when food is scarce.

  • Ice—ice is ice, right? In Antarctica, it may be land, lolly, sludge, sheet, pancake, pack, fast, or sea ice.
    Did you know? The Antarctic ice sheet covers an area about one-and-a-half times the size of the United States.