Following is a new Antarctica field season update from returning field team member and co-crew leader Jesse DeVoe:
Currently, we have tagged well over 600 pups, and when we tag the remaining seals, we will have tagged a record number of pups this season. We also estimate there are a total of 1500 seals, and plan to do at least 1 - 2 more entire population surveys.
The field work has been going in fits and starts, with the weather seeming to be unusually...well...Antarctic.
It doesn't seem like the driest continent in the world here in Erebus Bay...each passing storm brings a fresh load of new snow, making locating cracks difficult but snowmobile travel a delight (no rock-hard, 3-foot-high sastrugi). This has resulted in forced weather days back at camp, with visibility too poor for field work. However, we are often able to get out to the Big Razorback colony during these storms because camp is conveniently located right next door.
This pup is rapidly gaining mass (weight) from nursing, as mom is shrinking hundreds of pounds over the nursing period.
We have now just started weighing 35-day pups that are weaning and taking photogrammetry images in order to estimate mom's mass. The great transfer of wealth from mom to pup is becoming dramatic, as pups become quite rotund and the moms grow fatigued and skinny. We just finished our 4th (of hopefully 6) survey of the season, where we document every visible seal in the study area over the course of two days. The emperor penguins continue to visit our camp every few days and the number of south polar skuas has increased, particularly at the larger colonies. We had a helo flight to White Island where we tagged 3 pups. We still need to get into North and South Base, where there are some seals that are more difficult to access, we have a last helo flight planned for White Island, and we have one more recce flight to find seals that we may have missed in other places of the study area.
A field team member records the sightings of a mom/pup pair during one of the population surveys.
Still without internet, and given that we will probably be pulling camp in the next couple weeks, we probably won't get internet at the sea ice camp this year!
In the photo above members of the 2017 Antarctica field team gather in the kitchen hut to update the study's database and write reports.
This makes our few trips to McMurdo particularly exciting as people scramble to get updates out, and get their internet fix.
We just FEASTED at the magnificent and lavish Thanksgiving dinner in McMurdo. It made us very happy, right after an exhausting day surveying seals (which, by the way, was a bright, bluebird day with a max temp of 35 F and no wind!).