Erebus Bay, Antarctica lies in the shadow of Mt. Erebus, the southernmost active volcano in Antarctica. Erebus Bay is part of McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea, and is the site of the Weddell Seal Population Project study area. This study area location has been the site of project Weddell seal data gathering since the project began in 1968 with Dr. Don Siniff and others of the University of Minnesota. The extensive multi-decade database on these Weddell seals is unique in the population ecology science community, representing nearly 50 years of project population work. The project work is now led by Drs. Jay Rotella and Bob Garrott of Montana State University, and Dr. Don Siniff, professor emeritus of the University of Minnesota. Since 2002, the project has been based at Montana State University, Bozeman. More on the history of the Erebus Bay Weddell seal study can be found in our History section. Here is a map of the Erebus Bay study area showing the locations of the Weddell seal pupping colony sites.
Because the Weddell seals make use of tidal cracks formed around the many islands to access the surface to breath and haul out, the pupping colonies are located near these tidal cracks. The prominent Erebus Glacier tongue sticks out into Erebus Bay and also creates tidal cracks that the seals use to access the surface. The primary Weddell seal pupping colony locations are:
1. Big Razorback Island (where the field team's remote sea ice base camp is located this season);
2. Little Razorback Island;
3. Inaccessible Island;
4. Tent Island;
5. The Tryggve Point area:
6. The Turks Head area;
7. Glacier Tongue North Base area;
8. Glacier Tongue South Base area;
9. Hutton Cliffs;
10. Turtle Rock.
Big Razorback Island with with the active volcano Mt. Erebus in the background and Weddell seals dotting the surrounding tidal cracks, above.
Another view of part of Big Razorback Island with Weddell mom and pup pairs on the sea ice
scattered around the tidal crack.
The size of the Weddell seal colonies vary over the years, but the locations of the main pupping colonies have been fairly consistent over time.
There is one additional small isolated colony of Weddell seals located at White Island. Those seals have been isolated from the other colonies since the 1950s, but continue to reproduce nonetheless. The field team makes trips annually to White Island to check on the isolated colony and tag the seals there. We have a great blog article and video on the White Island Weddell seal colony that can be found here.