Showing posts from October, 2010

Tagging the Seal

"bleh!" says pup.
"Blehhh!" says mom.
Thus greeted, the Weddell seal research team takes their positions.  One man armed with tagging pliers, one man ready to distract the mom (or alert the tagger that "mom's a'comin'!!").  The process is usually over in less than a minute, and results in another tagged seal pup, adding to the over 20,000 individuals tagged in the past 41 years of this study.

It is a fascinating endeavor, to go out on the sea ice of Antarctica seeking every single new born pup in our study area and to tag them.  The process:  "look there's a seal over there with a pup!"  Upon approach, we check the seal's colored tags, which are placed on the rear flippers.  If it has both tags and the numbers are readable (for each tag is inscribed with a number, so that each seal has a uniquely numbered and colored tag, and thus each seal can be individually identified), we gear up for tagging the pup.  This new life on the ic…

Weddell Seal Science video blog

For those who have been unaware, and have been waiting desperately for new posts on my blog (much honest apologies!), there is a place to go to allay your desperation!

This year, the Weddell seal research team is fortunate to have Mary Lynn Price on board, who is an esteemed videographer of science and educational materials.  She has already uploaded several videos to the Weddell Seal Science blog documenting the many aspects of our research project in Erebus Bay!  Also, you can get video podcasts on iTunes, just search for DiveFilm HD Video.  Also here!  Check them'll be pleasantly surprised!

And I'll just throw this in:

Boxes on the Ice

It's 2 am.  I have to go pee.  I try not to bang my head on the ceiling or do a body slam on the floor as I groggily crawl and ease myself down from the top bunk in the men's sleeping hut.  I slip on my down booties and open the door.  "Aaahh! my eyes!" I exclaim (quietly and to myself, since everyone is sleeping).  Bright light harshly greets my blinking eyes.  "Huh...the sun is shining."  This surprise is met by another, and just as fiercely.  It's FREEZING outside.  I run towards the bathroom (called the "Center of Excellence"), making sure to glance up at Mt. Erebus, glowing in the sun, a small wisp of steam coming from the volcano's crater.  Crunch, crunch, crunch...I keep running...crunch, crunch, crunch...the sound always reminding me that I'm walking on sea ice overlaying, well, the sea (and who knows how deep).  To my right a subtle, distant moan reminds me that we have neighbors.  Twenty seals lay sprawled out on the ice, al…

An Antarctican Arrival

"You have all the fuel and food you need, so we'll see you in the morning!  Good luck and stay warm!"  With that, our instructors saddled their snowmobiles and zipped back to their hut, where they would spend a warm night in a cozy bed, probably with stuffed animals to cuddle with and hot chocolate at arms reach all night.  And so they left us.  Abandoned on an ice shelf on the coldest continent in the world, wind lashing at our faces, icicles slowly massing on our beards, temperatures down to -15 degrees F, and all wondering how best to mitigate the miserableness of the forthcoming night.  This was Happy Camper school.  Designed to make us...happy...campers?
It's at these times that I wonder how I end up in these situations.  The opportunity to come to Antarctica was presented to me so casually that it was easy to reply in-kind, with a casual "well...yes, I do want to go to Antarctica. Thank you for offering."  I had no idea what saying yes quite meant, and…