The Expedition Begins

Nicole Teutschel at UC Santa Cruz, Long Marine Lab--Today Luis Huckstadt boarded the massive icebreaker US-chartered Russian ship R/V Yuzhmorgeologiya to start his 3-4 day journey across the Drake Passage into wild Antarctica. Luis, a PhD student in Dan Costa’s Lab, is embarking on a major expedition to the frigid, unforgiving Antarctic waterways: home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. Today Luis took the first step in his journey, traveling south with satellite tags in search of Southern Elephant Seals.

The Yuzhmorgeologiya in the Southern Ocean. Photo: Daniel Costa.


Luis on his last expedition to the Southern Oceans. Photo: Daniel Costa.

Southern elephant seals are massive, but are similar in many ways to their cousins in the north: northern elephant seals. Luis has been a leader on the TOPP E Seal Team, training on the ins and outs of elephant seal field work in preparation for working with the gigantic Southerns.

A group of southern elephant seals. The seal on the far left is wearing a CTD tag, similar to the tags that Luis will deploy on another group of southern ellies this season. Photo: Brigitte McDonald.

The environment is very different from Año Nuevo State Reserve weather aside, Luis has already sent all his gear south, careful to account for any what-ifs that may happen. In Santa Cruz, we can always supplement our gear from the lab or store, but in Antarctica, there’s no such luck.

Luis at Año Nuevo State Reserve preparing to recover a satellite tag from an adult female northern elephant seal. Photo: Nicole Teutschel

Luis is on his way to a small camp in Cape Shirreff, home to thousands of Antarctic Fur Seals, Southern Elephant Seals, Weddell Seals,  Crabeater Seals, Leopard Seals, Gentoo Penguins, Adelie Penguins, Chinstrap Penguins and eight marine biologists. The small camp is part of the NOAA Antarctic Marine Living Resources program located on the Antarctic Peninsula. The Cape is full of life, including the massive Southern elephant seals.

The research station at Cape Shirreff. Photo: Brigitte McDonald.

After arriving in the Cape, Luis will brave the elements and set out to find ideal seals to carry CTD tags, fancy satellite tags that also measure oceanographic features. Luis will be searching for the seals at Livingston Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula.

A sleeping male southern elephant seal. These guys can weigh up to 4 tons! Photo: Brigitte McDonald.

Stay tuned, Luis will be communicating by satellite email during his expedition. We’ll get to follow Luis' journey through the desolate Antarctic environment, brave harsh storms, hear of research updates, and tales of tagging triumphs.

Hi Luis!!!!!!!!!! I hope

Hi Luis!!!!!!!!!! I hope you're having an awesome time in the antarctic! :D Stay warm and away from any sharp teeth :)