May 21, 2007
I woke up early this morning with the anticipation of catching a crabeater seal today, it did not happen. We saw 2 crabeater seals all day and when the seals noticed this huge orange ship coming at them they slid into the water. We did see around 500 fur seals. Fur seals do not dive deep enough for the data the scientists want to collect, so we are not tagging them. When I was researching crabeater seals, the literature stated that scientists estimate there are around 30 million of them, the most mammals on the planet next to humans and they are living here in Antarctica. Go figure, we only saw 2 all day. I am wondering how did they get a figure like 30 million?
Let me tell you a little about what I am supposed to do (maybe tomorrow). We all load into the zodiac boat once the seal is spotted on the ice. The ice flow is about as big as a 1/2 court basketball floor. We get close to the seal without startling him and dart him with a tranquilizer. We then wait 20 minutes for the drug (like valium) to take effect and then crawl up onto the ice (sounds wild). Two people will try to put a net over the seal's head, mainly so we won't get bit as a couple of us then play pile on the seal. Once we have subdued the seal, the anesthesia mask is put over his nose and he is finally out. We then take blood and tissue samples, glue the tag (transmitter) on, take measurements, and finally weigh the seal. This all takes around an hour to do. This seems hard to do on land, folks we are talking about doing this on a floating, bobbing chunk of ice, whoa. I can't wait for tomorrow.
Seal tagging and getting on an ice flow below the Antarctic Circle in the dead of winter down here, that is about as wild as it gets. The scenery is awesome, the ice bergs impressive, and the conditions just plain harsh. Sailing on!