Update from the Cape!

Luis Huckstadt at Cape Shirreff, Antarctica-- It's been very busy at the Cape these last couple of weeks. The daily routine hasn't changed that much from the previous report, but the workload has not decreased a bit! We continue with our daily flipper tag resights of Antarctic fur seals along the coast of the Cape. We're trying to make sure that we count them accurately, as well as trying to figure out if the moms still have their pups. Fur seals seem to be really good moms, and keep track of their pups really well. However...lurking in the cool icy waters off the rookeries there are leopard seals looking for their next meal: in the form of a fur seal pup or penguin!


Two southern elephant seals wearing CTD satellite tags. Photo: Gitte McDonald.


Southern elephant seal tagging has been going really smoothly. We finished our 12 deployments, with a huge effort from the crew here at The Cape. We've been working really hard! We captured 4 seals in one day! Today we are planning on capturing the last 3 seals. I expect success, especially because we've already spotted them. Tomorrow I plan to wait for the low tide and we'll be getting our last satellite tags out!



Cape Petrels in the chilly waters off the Cape. Photo: Dan Costa.


Besides our work with the pinnipeds (seals and fur seals), there is a huge effort going into studying chinstrap and gentoo penguins, gulls, albatrosses, skuas, and petrels. We had the amazing opportunity to help the "pinguinos" crew with their work, which has included some diet studies and banding of penguin chicks. Banding is similar to flipper tagging seals, only instead of a small tag in their flippers, we place a small bracelett around the chick's leg. This little anklett has a unique number for each animal, and is used to identify that individual in the future.

 A chinstrap penguin colony. Photo: Dan Costa


Overall, the biodiversity here is breathtaking. Yesterday we found a juvenile crabeater seal that decided to haul out very close to the beach where we were working. As always, fur seals and penguins dominate in numbers, but we have the daily opportunity of seeing all the birds, the fur seals and elephant seals, crabeater, leopard, Weddell seals, and even humpback whales.


A leopard seal at The Cape! This seals are predators of fur seal pups, crabeater seals, and penguins! Photo: Dan Costa.


That's all the news for now! Mike Goebel (Southwest Fisheries Center, NOAA and leader of the pinniped Program at Cape Shirreff), and I will be picked up by the R/V Yuzmorgeologiya, when we will start our trip back to Punta Arenas, Chile. The rest of the crew will stay in camp until late February, continuing their incredible work with the local populations of pinnipeds and birds at The Cape. I'll blog when I arrive in Chile!