They're baaaaaack!

Melinda Fowler at UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Lab, CA--The elephant seals are returning after their post-breeding foraging trip.  The adult females must recover the mass lost after having a pup and nursing it for 27 days.  She heads to sea to build up her fat reserves and then returns to Ano Nuevo to molt--grow new hair and skin.  The females who left the beach in late January are already hitting the beach again.  It seems like only a short time since they left, but it's been about 2 months since they left.  We've recovered 3 so far, and 20 to go!! 

Weddell Seal Expedition: Halley Station and Signy Island

Patrick Robinson at Signy Island--After completing most of the science work for the expedition, the ship stopped at Halley Station (a British research base on the Brunt ice shelf) to pick up about 25 people and drop off supplies for the folks who will remain there during the winter.  This station is unique because it is built on a thick ice shelf rather than land.  The buildings must be raised on stilts to prevent the inevitable accumulation of snow from burying them over the course of several years.

Weddell Seal Expedition: Tagging the final seal

Patrick Robinson at the Eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica--Yesterday, we were in search of our 10th and final seal and found an ice floe with several seals.  We prepared our gear and went out onto the ice to get a closer look.  Unfortunately, the seals were a bit too young for our study (we are tagging adult animals).  So, we hiked back to the ship and continued our search.  We continued scanning through binoculars from the bridge for the remainder of the day, but saw only crabeater seals.

 

 

Weddell Seal Expedition: A look at the data

Patrick Robinson at the Eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica--We tagged three additional Weddell seals yesterday to bring our total up to nine and the seals are already sending us interesting data.  The seals have already collected more than four times the number of CTD profiles collected by the ship!  Here is a sample of the various data sent back to us from the tags:

 

 

Penelope had a BOY!

Nicole Teutschel at UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Lab, CA-- The latest news from Penelope is... her pup is a boy! Penelope, wore satellite tags last winter as a part of TOPP’s elephant seal tagging program. Penelope had her tags recovered, or removed, about one year ago.

This year, Penelope chose the same harem to give birth to her son. Penelope can be seen at Tarsands Central, a very large harem at Ano Nuevo State Reserve.

Weddell Seal Expedition: Tagging Weddell Seals

Patrick Robinson at the Eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica-- The Weddell seal tagging is off to a great start.  We have been quite busy over the past 2 days and have already deployed 6 of the 10 tags!   This is how we do it: After we have located a seal from the bridge of the ship, we assemble a team of people to go out onto the ice.  We don our cold-weather gear and bring our tagging supplies to the main deck of the ship.  To get to the ice, we have to be lowered by a crane (I will admit, this part is actually quite fun!). 

Weddell Seal Expedition: Searching for Seals

Patrick Robinson in the Eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica--After two weeks of transit and oceanography work, we are now ready to begin searching for Weddell seals.  We are in the southeastern Weddell sea in an area where chief scientist Keith Nicholls spotted animals on previous expeditions.  Weddell seals prefer areas of dense sea ice over the continental shelf in waters between 400-700 meters depth. The seals spend most of their time in the water diving and foraging, but we are looking for animals that have hauled out on the sea ice to rest. 

Weddell Seal Expedition: CTD casts

Patrick Robinson at the Eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica-- The main purpose of this RRS Shackleton expedition is to study the oceanography of the Weddell Sea.  To do this, researchers from the British Antarctic Survey deploy instruments on mooring lines (see previous blog posting), but also complete point samples by lowering instruments deep into the ocean from the ship.  The CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) recorder as well as current profilers are the basic tools of oceanographers and provide information about a profile of the water column.

Stelephant Colbert SPOTTED!

Nicole Teutschel at Año Nuevo State Reserve, CA-- Today we were busy at North Point, one of the north most harems at Año Nuevo State Reserve in Northern California. In addition to recovering a satellite tag, we were also resighting.

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.

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