Photograph by Jennifer Hayes
Photograph by Jennifer Hayes

What can an encounter with a harp seal teach you?

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By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences

I can’t even imagine the exhilaration that photographer Jennifer Hayes felt swimming and climbing ice with a newborn harp seal off Canada’s Magdalen Islands.

“As we moved through the ice,” Jennifer once wrote, “the pup and I became closer and closer. We stopped and the pup climbed onto me to rest. I floated on my back as the pup sprawled heavily on my chest, and its face nuzzled my mask.”

I don’t know about you, but I read that paragraph of Jennifer’s writing in a little office between meetings, far from cuddly newborn harp seals. Someone, I think, is living life right.

Hayes, who will be on Good Morning America next week to talk about the seals, knows her stuff; she’s been following the ecosystem of the Gulf of St. Lawrence for years with her husband and partner, David Doubilet. And that’s just one place they cover.

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Their work is typical of the sustained effort that some photographers put in over the years to capture the edges of the world for Nat Geo.

I don’t want to give away much more of Jennifer’s 2014 encounter, other than to say it wasn’t all blissful. She ended up with a deep gash from a male harp seal and found an unlikely ally, a female harp seal, who fought a male seal on her behalf.

Aw c’mon, read Jennifer's adventure—and see it—yourself. And remember, some days an office job has its benefits.

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Your Instagram photo of the day

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Netting fish: A fishing trawler off the coast of Crimea catches kilka fish, which is salted and barreled onboard, says photographer Ed Kashi. Global fisheries are in decline as ocean temps rise due to climate change.

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Today in a minute

Eyewitness: Photographer Eleanor Moseman found herself in Tibet when the realization slowly spread about the coronavirus. As she saw a rare side of the outbreak, suspicion toward foreigners grew, Moseman told the Los Angeles TimesAlice Su. Some people, Moseman said, saw “the shortening of Tibetan lives as predicted in Buddhist scriptures because of immoral and impure practices brought by the Chinese”—bad air, poisoned food, and now this virus. Others dismissed that view as unscientific.

Elevation: From heights of 70,000 feet, the Cold War U-2 spy plane took photographs of hot spots—and, as it turns out, provided key evidence of ancient civilizations. The high-res photos of historical, ethnographic, and archaeological sites and landscapes are only now becoming accessible to researchers, Atlas Obscurareports.

Enduring: Some things don’t change, even in a nation as tumultuous as Ukraine. That’s part of the attraction of Sasha Maslov’s award-winning portraits of women who work as traffic controllers and safety officers at railroad crossings in Ukraine. “For now, they are standing strong, resilient to, or not noticing changes, awaiting the next train,” Maslov writes for Lens Culture.

Entrancing: That’s how one critic describes visual artist Lisa Oppenheim’s show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in L.A. “The narrative arc of Oppenheim’s show mimics the story of celluloid itself, which ends in destructive fire,” Leah Ollman writes.

Overheard at Nat Geo

Listen up: Two Nat Geo photographers and a contributor have had their favorite music chronicled by a Spotify site featuring creatives. Hannah Reyes Morales’s playlist goes from Kendrick Lamar to Hamilton to Mandy Patinkin; Ed Kashi’s playlist is big on Lauryn Hill. Photographer Camilla Ferrari, whose work we’ve licensed, has a playlist that features the German electronic group Moderat and Dead Can Dance. (Thanks to Nat Geo’s Sydney Combs for the tip.)

The big takeaway

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One last glimpse

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Say fromage: This self-portrait by Maynard Owen Williams was taken in 1936 in Paris. Williams would spend a significant part of his career in Paris as the sole member of the first foreign editorial staff for National Geographic, says Sara Manco, our senior photo archivist. “I love the surrealist nature of this photo and his clever use of framing his reflection,” Manco says.

See: Nat Geo’s Photo of the Day archive

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Eslah Attar selected the photographs. Have an idea or a link? We’d love to hear from you at . Thanks for reading!