A panicked penguin narrowly escaped the gaping jaws of a hungry leopard seal after beating it to this rocky shoreline in Antartica.

An incredible set of pictures captured the scenes as fellow gentoo penguins desperately propelled themselves from the icy water after a feeding excursion off Cuverville Island. The seal, around three-and-a-half metres in length, failed in its attempts to catch the penguins during the ordeal, which lasted around three hours.

It lurked around the shoreline, stalking the penguins underwater, until one landed in the right spot for the chase to be on.

South African-born Ben Cranke, 49, spent the day photographing Cuverville Island’s large gentoo penguin colony. The rocky expanse in Antarctica, which lies just south of Argentina, is a popular nesting ground for gentoo penguins.

After scouting the shoreline, Mr Cranke, who’s a veterinarian by training but switched to photography in 2006, found the ideal spot to watch the action from just two metres away.  He said: ‘The penguins propelled themselves at great speed out of the icy waters and onto the rocks, scurrying past me to make their way inland. Then the reason for their panicked exits soon became apparent - a leopard seal was on the hunt and gentoo penguins were on the menu.