Saturday, October 23, 2004

Pup tally = 16 (13 live, 3 dead)

Pups are popping out a little more frequently at this point. 3 of our crew even saw a seal give birth near where they were working today. Here is one new pup nursing at the Hutton Cliffs colony:

This photo shows me standing in front of a big melt pool at Hutton Cliffs - it will likely be a popular seal hangout as the temperatures rise in the coming weeks. It was not exactly balmy today, but windless which enabled me to shed the red parka for a while.

Yesterday's highlight was a lone Emperor penguin cruising through camp - just after I had said we probably wouldn't see any Emperors this year with the ice edge so far out (about 80 miles)!

This afternoon we made our annual trip out to the Barne Glacier to harvest some ice for our evening cocktails in camp. Highly compressed, 10,000 year old ice that makes cool bubbles in your drink - here is the source:

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Pup tally = 6 (3 live, 3 dead)

Yesterday we snowmobiled down to Hutton Cliffs - the biggest colony in the southern part of our study area. Kelly and Terra had tagged one new pup there on Saturday night, and yesterday we found 1 more. This seal mom is 12 years old, and has had a pup each year since she was 7. Every year she's been at the same colony, and every year she is there with her pup before the 20th of October - pretty early.

With so few seals out there for us to tag, weigh or photograph right now, we must find other ways to occupy ourselves so we spent some time trying to fix the wind speed monitor on our weather station. I'm happy to report that we succeeded, and also that I prevailed at the "who can blow the highest wind speed" contest that was part of the testing phase (26mph) - see photo below of Mark -reaching 25 mph:

Today Terra and I checked the Turk's Head colony again. We found no new pups, and also found that 2 of the 3 pups we tagged there the other day had died. One of these pups was alone when we tagged it, so had probably been abandoned by its mother and didn't have much chance of survival. However the other pup was apparently healthy 2 days ago, and its mother is still there next to it. Driving north around Tent and Inaccessible Islands, we saw only 1 more pup and this too was a dead one. Being born so early in the season may compromise the pup's chance of survival. Temperatures are around 0 F, and the more or less constant wind probably takes its toll on a seal pup with no blubber yet.

Rather than ending with a photo of a dead seal pup, here is one of Mount Erebus. This is the view looking east from our camp, and we get a little bit of alpenglow at night when the sun is low on the horizon. Next week will be the last sunset until February!

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