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TITLE : For Valentine’s Day: the Antarctic’s most loving animals
The biggest hearts in the world are found in the Antarctic Ocean, so why not show them some love this Valentine’s Day? There’s always room for more love in the world – and today seemed like the perfect opportunity to spread a little of it. Our ship, the Arctic Sunrise, is currently in the Antarctic, breaking ice rather than hearts, so here are some Antarctic Valentine stories.
PARA #1 – Big heart / Whole lotta love
Blue whales are the biggest animals that ever lived, and they have the biggest hearts too – roughly the same size as an adult gorilla. It takes a lot of blood to keep these ocean giants going in the icy Antarctic waters, so having a big heart is practical, but they also show love and devotion for their young calves too. They make massive migrations every year to breed in safe, warm, tropical waters, then back to feed in icy krill-rich southern seas, with their beloved big babies in tow. They’re so devoted to their young that they give up eating to be able to look after and nurse them – so they’re pretty hungry when they turn up in the Antarctic!
PARA #2 – Lots of heart / Loving arms
Tiny Turquet’s octopus have three hearts! These spangly seafloor dwellers live in seas all around Antarctica, and their DNA has recently been giving scientists clues to how climate change has affected the Antarctic in the past. With three hearts and eight arms, they certainly have a lot of love to give, and must be pretty awesome huggers too.
PARA #3 – True devotion / Endless love
Albatross might well live to be 60 years old if they’re lucky, and they mate for life. These iconic ocean wanderers fly thousands of miles across the ocean by themselves, seeking food by skimming the waves of the Antarctic Ocean. But every year they each make a romantic pilgrimage back to the same nesting grounds on remote islands, to be reunited with the love of their life once again. After some courteous courting and tender pair bonding, they stay together to raise a single chick, parting ways again when the chick fledges – until they find each other again next year.
Antarctic krill might be most visible when they swarm in pink clouds near the ocean surface, but when they want to get intimate they like to dive a little deeper. Voyeuristic scientists have seen krill mating near the ocean floor, over 500 metres down, which is a pretty mammoth effort for a teensy krill. Thankfully once they have plumbed the depths, the whole affair, which the scientists unromantically refer to as ‘chase, probe, embrace, flex & push’ is all over and done within just a few seconds.
PARA #4 – Cute couples / Get your rocks off
Adélie penguins give love tokens to their mates. Since these cute little charmers choose bare, rocky ice-free nesting grounds around the edge of Antarctica to nest, they don’t have any flowers to pick or any nearby jewellery stores. So instead they show their love by bringing the prettiest rocks they can find. Handily these rocks are then used to build a nest to raise their chicks: so it’s not only a touching act of gift giving, it’s also a savvy way of putting down a deposit on some real estate.
Make a little more room for love in the Antarctic this Valentine’s Day – join our call for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary, to give all of these amazing creatures space to do what comes naturally.
Willie Mackenzie is an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace UK