This is the moment when a baby elephant seal emerged from the sea to cuddle a surprised tourist.
Charlene Fritz, 35, was visiting Snow Hill Island in the Antarctic Peninsula as part of an expedition when she made an unusual friend on the beach.
Although not more than two months old, the baby elephant seal is still thought to weigh around 200 lbs, and Ms. Fritz had struggled to sit upright.
Charlene, from Saskatchewan, Canada, said: ‘The seal climbed on top of me without hesitation. We shared a delightful moment in time I will never forget.
‘The inside of her mouth was all pink, and her eyes were amazing to look into, like the deepest depths of the sea. I could have stared into her eyes forever. ‘
She added: ‘I’ve made it very clear that I’m not allowed to touch her with my hands or get close to her.
‘She came to me from across the beach and made all the decisions to cuddle. I want to hug her terribly.
‘Physically, she’s like a big ball, super warm and likes she had no bones. She had no fishy odor or bad breath. She had never even eaten a single fish at that point in her life.
Charlene, whose 2011 encounter with seals was filmed by a friend, initially wondered why the seals were so friendly but later learned of the harsh weaning process.
She said: ‘Basically the mother feeds them with her own milk for a month or so, then leaves them on the beach.
‘They never went to the ocean to learn to fish or anything and lay there starving until they take the leap of faith and go into the sea.
‘This is why they can be so sweet and looking for love, I guess.’
However, an encounter with an adult elephant would be a different scenario.
Males of this species can weigh up to two tons and are known to be temperamental during the mating season as it battles to control the harems of the female.