Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) started arriving in late January. At first just a few. Some people saw one. Others hoped to see one. More and more showed up, and soon everyone saw them. They're mostly subadult males. Teenagers.
I worried about them because many seemed skinny. Eat more krill!
Seeing any Antarctic fur seals was rather thrilling. They were driven toward extinction by American and British sealers in the 18th & 19th centuries. (Fur collars and coats.) They were slaughtered as fast as possible, without pause until the sealers couldn't find any more.
One person who helped obliterate those seals was Nathaniel B. Palmer, who was a sealer for two decades, starting in 1820. He was co-discoverer of this and that in the Antarctic Peninsula and subantarctic islands, places he explored in search of new sealing grounds when fur seals had been wiped out at the old ones. In the early 1840s Palmer switched to the express freight business. Palmer Station is called after him. For the exploring part.
By 1900 it seemed people had succeeded in killing every single Antarctic fur seal. A single one was spotted in 1916. They killed him.
In 1931, a small breeding colony was found on Bird Island, with a few hundred seals. Weirdly, no one killed them. Now there are estimated to be a few millions. Having multiplied from so few individuals, they've been through a serious genetic bottleneck, which probably leaves them susceptible to epidemics. I couldn't find pictures of their massive breeding colonies, probably partly because most of those areas are protected and hard to get to, and partly because they made the PR mistake of breeding near king penguins.
Now that there are so many fur seals down here, we encounter them more often. We usually see them lying on rock or snow on the land, not on ice. Unlike the elephant seals they don't lie in piles. They space themselves out, increasing the chance that as you are politely circumventing seals A, B, and C you will annoy seal D. Seal D will speak about this before you stumble on him. He may growl, or he may whimper like a puppy. He may charge at you.
The word is that fur seals are ferocious. We stay back, for our sakes and theirs. There's a few-years-old story of a tourist nearby who had to be medevac'd out because of a serious fur seal bite. (We don't know what happened, so we don't know how to apportion tourist/seal blame.)
It's true they have surly attitudes. It's hard to guess how many of those charges are bluffs. You should be able to stay far enough away and show sufficiently respectful body language so they don't charge at all. Everyone here knows how to behave around them, and there have been no close calls.
Their bad reputation makes the whimpering very creepy. Imagine a dog whining and whimpering before it attacks.
When they're not being annoyed with human beings, they're often annoyed with each other. The growling and whimpering and charging are directed at other teenage male seals. They snap and snarl and insist that no one gets too close. I suppose they're practicing for adulthood at the breeding grounds, when each will hope to drive other males away and monopolize the presence of as many females as possible.
When they're not engaged in ugly little squabbles, they're elegant and showy. Long whiskers, long flippers. They look as if they could balance a beach ball. If they chose to demean themselves.