May 25, 2007
A crabeater seal was spotted just after lunch. The seal team gathered and hopped into the zodiac boat and chugged its way through the large pieces of pancake ice. My heart started to beat a little faster the closer we got to the seal. Birgitte McDonald, a UC Santa Cruz PhD student, aimed the dart gun and fired. A direct hit of tranquilizer went into the seal, now we wait 20 minutes before we go onto the ice flow. The minutes just seemed to drag, my adrenaline going full speed. Finally, the nod was given. The net was put over the seal's head and before I knew it I was in an all out wrestling match with a 600 pound seal on a block of in the Antarctic Ocean. It doesn't get any wilder than that! I was on the head trying to pin this seal to the ice. I have wrestled a lot of humans in my life, but this animal was so incredibly strong he was lifting me up and down like a rag doll. The other seal team members all pile on holding the seal in one place. I put all of my 200 pounds (I always tell my best friend Joe that I only weigh 180) on the seal's head until Tracey Goldstein administers the anesthesia. The time from jumping on the seal's head until he was asleep seemed like forever, even though it was just a few minutes. Once the seal was out, the seal team went into action each person having a job of data collecting. Measurements, ultra sound, tissue biopsy, blood samples, and weighing are the objectives of each capture. The seal team is led by Dr. Dan Crocker. It consists of 5 PhD students from UC Santa Cruz. This team really likes one another and they are fun to watch work. Each of these students will make a name for themselves in their chosen field of science. As a teacher, it is inspiring to see such a dedicated and caring young people.
After we were finished, we packed up and motored to a second seal floating on a chunk of ice. We approached this seal, and the group consensus was the ice flow was just too small to work on. This crabeater seal was also about 200 pounds heavier than the last seal. Wrestling a seal and going into the Antarctic Ocean is something everyone wants to avoid. We passed on the seal, but not without taking some outstanding pictures.
The sun came out today; it was good to see the sun. I have not seen the sun since I left Layton, Utah on May 5th. The coastline was illuminated with colors I have never seen and when we finished around 3pm, the sun was setting and the moon was coming out, giving the mountains an alpen glow. This was a great day! I do love being out here, and again, I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. All I can say is "bring it on".