The 2014 sea ice camp has now been set for the Weddell pupping season, and is located at Big Razorback Island, one the volcanic Dellbridge Islands in Erebus Bay. The sea ice camp is located near the southernmost active volcano on Earth, Mt. Erebus. This frame comes from a wonderful satellite imaging flyover created by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio; LIMA Data provided by: Patricia Vornberger (SAIC); LIMA data produced by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and NASA.
What follows is a report from field crew leader and Weddell project PhD Student, Terrill Paterson:
Good morning, all!
Seal camp has officially been put it, and B-009 is ready to get to work! Weather delays have caused quite the back up of teams and personnel trying to get to the ice; many of our friends have been delayed over a week. We were lucky and made it to the ice on a clear day before a week of snow and storms. A wide variety of people at McMurdo helped us tremendously as we geared up for our season. Ten days of preparation finally paid off as we had camp pulled out to Big Razorback yesterday, and the carpenters and electricians powered and heated our huts today.
Whilst in McMurdo, we managed to get out several times as conditions permitted. We spend a few days flagging roads from Big Razorback to Turk’s Head and Tryggve Point, and again from the Cape Evans road to Turtle Rock. The conditions here are very nice for our work. Last summer, much of the multiyear ice that causes us such headaches ‘blew out’ of places such as North Base, Hutton and South Base. The resulting sea ice is very smooth and apparently quite stable. As a bit of a treat, several large icebergs have been grounded near Cape Evans a few miles north of camp. These are large chunks of ice which broke off the Ross Ice Shelf and drifted into Erebus Bay. They are very beautiful, and we will send pictures soon as we investigate them for safety and survey reasons.
We tagged our first pup on October 5th at Turtle Rock, a pup our support staff thinks may have been born in late September, a very early birth day! There are few pups just yet. We have only found a few at Tent Island, including a newborn pup that was still wet and an unfrozen placenta. We know his mom pretty well and plan on finding out as much information as we can about his swimming habits and changes in mass as he nurses from Mom.
Our upcoming week (working from camp) is very exciting. We have a helicopter flight scheduled for Monday morning (Sunday on US time). I am taking Michael (an excellent returning field tech with experience on many projects, responsible for the mass database) and Kirstie (an outstanding returning field tech and a woman with a great deal of experience from the Monk seal project in Hawaii, responsible for the temperature tag database) to explore our study area, looking for cracks and seals. They will be responsible for leading teams in the next week (as experienced and returning technicians) and it would serve us all well to get a broad perspective on the study area. Later that day (and probably a couple of ensuing days), we will press into the Hutton cliffs area, one of the most beautiful places in our study area. Our objective is to get out there to tag and weigh pups! I am excited to learn how to weigh moms using a specialized sled and a whole lot of patience. It is a lot different than running cattle through a chute, which is what I spent time doing as a kid.