May 24, 2007
We woke up to favorable weather conditions this morning and after breakfast everyone made their way to the bridge of the ship (highest view point). The ingredient that was missing today was the ice flows for the seals to haul out onto. Seal hunting reminds me a lot of team roping in a rodeo. There are 3 variables that could go wrong. If all 3 variables work out, you catch a seal or win the rodeo. In team roping, the variables are the cow, your horse, and your partner. Each of those must work in order for you to catch the cow by the head and the feet, giving you a time to win the rodeo. In seal hunting, the first variable is finding a crabeater seal (there are no tourist maps in Antarctica), the second variable is that the ice flow must be big enough to work on without putting you at risk. The third variable is actually being able to sneak up and tranquilize the seal so the work can be performed. When all three of these difficult variables come together, the goal of tagging a crabeater seal is just as cool as winning a rodeo.
After lunch, we decided to launch the zodiac and go more inland with a faster boat to spot the elusive crabeater seal. Jamee (the boatman) asked if I would like to go. I had my dry suit on in a New York minute and was on the small boat. This was one of the coolest days I have had on this trip, thank you Jamee. While we were searching, we came upon quite a few fur seals, but then the whales started to show up along side of the boat. After a couple of hours looking for seals we had 3 minke whales, 3 killer whales and a large humpback whale come right by our small boat. Bob Pitman, chief scientist from my last STAR cruise, said to me before I left, "Try to get some pictures of killer whales while you are down there". Have you ever tried taking a picture of a whale? I have a good collection of pictures of water, the part where the whale was. Taking a picture of a whale is a pure talent and that talent is not one that I have. We also saw a raft of snow petrels. I said that to impress my seabird friends back in San Diego at the Southwest Fisheries Lab. A raft of snow petrels is a flock of white birds that look like pigeons sitting on the water or in this case some pancake ice.
I spent most of today outside, I am starting to miss the sunshine. I have not seen sunshine since May 5th. The weather is generally cloudy each day with some snow. We have been below the Antarctic Circle this past week. We get about 6 hours of daylight to work. The sun comes up at 9am and goes down around 3pm. Tomorrow will be a big day for tagging. I can feel it. Everyone wants to get the tags on, we have 2 days of tagging left. So for now, sailing and tagging on.