Days At The Cape

Luis Huckstadt at Cape Shirreff, Antarctica--Days at the camp are pretty busy, and it's really interesting. We start our work day early, heading out for Antarctic fur seal tag resights, or searching for flipper tags. These are little tags, on squirmy seals, so it usually takes most of our morning. Besides resighting tags, we count individuals which can be complicated in cold places like the Antarctica!  On chilly days, seals tuck their flippers under their bodies to conserve body heat, making our mission of reading their flipper tags quite the challenge!

Antarctic Fur Seal mother and her pup hauled out at the Cape. Photo: Daniel Costa.


Every morning hike is amazing, since we have the opportunity of seeing not only thousands of fur seals, particularly pups, but also Weddell seals, leopard seals, chinstrap and gentoo penguins, and of course, elephant seals! After finishing with the tag resights, we go to the elephant seal haul out sites and count them, too. This will allow us to estimate of the number of E Seals who molt at the Cape. Southern elephant seals are much bigger than their cousins from the north. We saw a particularly big male... so big you couldn't even see his head when looking at him from some 5 m above!

A Southern Elephant Seal wearing a satellite tag at The Cape. Photo: Gitte McDonald.


So far, we've deployed 3 CTD tags on female elephant seals, and two of them have moved already. Not sure if they're at sea, or just decided to go somewhere else on the island, but they're not where we found them! There are several elephant seals at the Cape and several of them are almost done with their molt, so we hope to reach our goal of 12 tagged elephant seals within the next 10 days.