Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Green Christmas

I've never experienced such contrasts.  For two and a half months, our crew made Antarctica home, or at least as home as Antarctica would let us.  The sea ice, where we worked, lived, and slept, became as familiar to us as my backyard in Idaho.  The uninhibited white stretched before us everyday, as we went about our research amidst the groaning seals.  We became accustomed to the cold temperatures (but did not complain when conditions got "tropical" by the end of the season).  The immense Mt Erebus, steamingly eyeing us from above, although always awe-inspiring, became part of the backdrop.  The things that were so striking and surprising when we first arrived, became part of the daily routine.  It's as if we've only ever known daylight to be constant for 24 hours.  To become comfortable in a place, is to make it home, at least for the vagabond biologist, and that's what the field camp at Big Razorback Island in Antarctica became.

Post snow petrel flyby

Exploring the innards of a snow cave/ crevasse in the Erebus Glacier Tongue

But suddenly, our crew found ourselves packing and cleaning, tearing down the field camp and moving to McMurdo in preparation to leave the great white of Antarctica.  We took our last steps on the ice on Dec 16, boarded the C17.  Five hours later, our feet found purchase on the wet asphalt on a warm and rainy New Zealand night.  The smell of plants and soil wafted upon us, the dark night engulfed us.  Our life of white and cold was quickly replaced by green and warm.

Waiting to board the C17 (sniff, sniff)
In the belly of the whale
Note the dudes in the hammocks and camp chair
Birds are singing out my window as I write this.  Flowers are in bloom.  Trees are getting trimmed, lawns are getting mowed.  Decorated Christmas trees with presents aplenty can be seen through open doors and windows as you pass by, letting the summer breeze in.  A Christmas in the southern hemisphere.  White for green, and though Christmas makes me miss the white is pretty darn nice too.

Green New Zealand (Akaroa in Banks Peninsula)
The obligatory sheep picture
More green
Tui (too-ee) at Hinewai Reserve, Banks Peninsula (note band on leg--this bird was introduced to the Reserve a few years ago to try to reinstate native communities to the area)
Night exists!
I am not alone this Christmas, don't you worry.  My gracious host family (from a previous study abroad experience I had here) took me in, and, on Christmas day, I fly to Australia to meet my parents.  An unusual Christmas for the DeVoe family (minus Luke), but joyous nonetheless.

"Bleh!"  (translation: "Merry Christmas!")
Merry Christmas to all eight of my blog readers!!  Enjoy the white if you have it, but most importantly, enjoy family and friends, and dwell on the blessings of God....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Skua Tug O War

Can anyone guess what they are using as the "rope"?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Seal Pup Surprise

At the outset of my arrival in Antarctica, I intended to update my blog regularly in such a way that my readers could gain a better sense of the seal research we are doing and of the on-the-ice lifestyle.  I have failed miserably(!)...however, I hope that what was seen here was eye-opening, interesting, and/or entertaining.

As of now, our crew has 3 more days in Antarctica.  We fly from McMurdo to Christchurch, NZ on Dec 15, and thus will end the 2010 Weddell seal field season.  However, I intend to keep updating my blog with some of the season's highlights and excitements as time goes on.  It is also worth it to keep an eye on (or check out if you haven't already) Mary Lynn Price's Weddell Seal Science website, although it will remain dormant for a few weeks to come as she resumes video editing in a month or so.  Or you can just check back here for updates on that.

For now, I will treat you to another pup video.  This taken at Turtle Rock two days ago.  Most of the momma seals have completely abandoned their pups, and the pups must learn to get a long on their own now...and they are still learning the ropes on the ice....

To enlarge, click on the movie AGAIN after it has started playing.  From there you can even enlarge it more by clicking the symbol in the bottom right hand corner of the video.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Seals by Air

Most of our research is accomplished by snowmobile every day, but occasionally, we have the opportunity to work from the sky.  This video was captured during two helicopter flights, one to find any seals hidden behind ice pressure ridges or large ice masses that we missed in our first tagging efforts, and another to find any tagged seals outside of our study area (at Tera Nova Bay) to assess the amount of emigration out of the study population.  The resulting video is nothing special, in fact, it is very poorly done, as I am just learning the ropes of video editing (using Adobe Premiere Elements 9) and don't have a lot of time on my hands (apparently, editing video can take a very, very long time, at least in my case!).  I provide no distinction during the video between the two flights, but first half is in an A-Star helicopter and the second half is in a Bell helicopter.

The tiny black dots on the edges of the islands and cracks are seals!!

To make the video BIGGER, click on it AGAIN after it has started playing.