Surprise Seal, Svalbard, Norway, 2006

Waiting in the water with his camera, hoping to get an 800-pound seal to look at him, photographer Flip Nicklin finally got his picture, which appears on the [May 1997] issue’s cover. “Then all of a sudden, I felt a pair of flippers on my forearms, and there she was, nuzzling the top of my head,” he says.

Once surfaced, the two swimmers saw eye to eye – a new experience for Flip. “In my ten years of photographing in the Arctic, I’ve probably gotten two shots of bearded seals, and those were from a distance. It was great to get that close at last.”

Navigating two open-air powerboats on choppy water through floating chunks of ice, Flip and the seal researchers wore heavy, metal-toed “survival suits” for protection.

“For 14 days in a row I spent up to 12 hours a day on a boat and lost all feeling in my feet,” Flip recalls. “It’s nice to have them back!”

Location: Svalbard, Norway
Photograph Date: 2006
Medium: Chromogenic Print
Edition: 20

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