Behind the Lens: Filming Elephant Seals at Gold Harbour, South Georgia

The elephant seals of Antarctica‘s South Georgia are fierce, gigantic and loud. As the largest of all seal species, their almighty presence is amplified by tremors through the ground as they move awkwardly on land.

When Silversea expedition filmmaker Benn Berkeley filmed these impressive animals — which can grow up to 20 feet long — it was an experience that would forever be lodged in his memory as one of his most engaging wildlife moments behind the lens.

Filming amid the chaos

“When you arrive onto the beach of Gold Harbour, your senses are overridden by king penguins and elephant seals — there’s just so much going on and you’re literally amongst all of it,” says Benn. “Such a chaotic atmosphere can prove challenging when you have a camera close to your eye to capture the action.

“Elephant seals are very large, intimidating and unpredictable,” he adds. “Everything is moving which makes it tricky because you’ve got one eye down the lens and your whole peripheral vision just goes. That’s kind of scary when you’re filming these massive things that could just kill you.

“You have to have a quick peek, get your framing and then keep checking behind you because fur seals come up and nip at your ankles too which is very comical,” Benn adds. “There is lots going on!”

Larger-than-life characters, larger-than-life experiences

Elephant Seals in Gold Harbour, Antarctica./Benn Berkeley

Not only was this Benn’s first time visiting South Georgia, it was also his first time filming elephant seals. So he visited this location armed with a goal of offering an insight into the personalities of these imposing creatures with his RED digital camera.

“They are absolutely huge, and they’ve each got a personality, but the main thing is that they are other worldly, so I wanted to try and convey as much as possible how big they are,” he explains.

“When they’re moving you can feel the ground shaking. They’re super heavy, super clumsy and non-elegant, but in the water they’re amazingly graceful. They lie around sleeping on one another, but then one might move and it sets off this whole domino effect, and it’s just carnage.”

Being amongst nature’s wildest, finest moments makes trips such as this all the more life-affirming for wildlife filmmakers like Benn.

“I’ve always wanted to get down to South Georgia and Antarctica, and it blew my mind. To see elephant seals right in front of you and sit there amongst them is just an amazing moment.”

Ready to see seals, king penguins and more Antarctica wildlife yourself? Start by browsing these Silversea Antarctica cruises, and consider what you should know for your first trip to Antarctica.