Monday, December 3, 2007

Letters From The Ice

(from Jessica)

Things have been incredibly hectic out here at the Ranch with this extremely long stretch of great weather that we have had (after our equally long stretch of bad weather and delays at the beginning of the season!). Cass and I have been very busy with our recorder deployments and lab work analyses.

and have managed to accomplish loads of science.

We are both feeling incredibly fortunate to leave the ice with so much data under our belts.

The birds have been diving regularly through their 2 dive holes, and as the season progresses, many of them have put on several kilograms . . . apparently the eating around the Ranch must be good!

Here is a picture of 2 of our penguins exiting the holes , one mid-air, and Markus (on the right) just after exiting.

One morning we were fortunate enough to see one of the penguins emerge from the hole with a fish still wriggling in its beak (we are pretty certain it is a “borch”, the Antarctic ice-fish, Pagothenia borchgrevinki). The penguin dropped the fish and went back in the water, so we threw it back in the hole .

Between all the science, Matt has managed to find time to get his daily workout in, slightly modified of course to accommodate Ranch life. Here he is in action

The seals are also still regular visitors to our huts, often bringing up fresh Mawsoni (Antarctic cod) that they have caught beneath the ice.

Here are pictures of our buddy Wendell, one of Cory bonding with the seal ,

and one of Wendell with a freshly caught Mawsoni .

Paul and I have also done several dives out here at the Ranch. It is absolutely breathtaking to be diving underneath the ice with Weddell seals and emperor penguins swimming circles around you. Today we did our seventh (and final) dive. Paul has taken several underwater pictures during the dives, but they are all on film so we will have to wait until we return to San Diego to see how they come out. The water has become progressively murkier throughout the season with summer approaching and the amount of algae (and everything higher in the food chain) increasing. Today’s dive was quite cloudy (relatively speaking for the Antarctic of course!).

We have recently made several trips to the ice edge to release birds that have participated in our work at Penguin Ranch. We let 2 of the last 5 birds go in our most recent release and because of excellent weather and good ice conditions, we were able to bring them right up to the ice edge. Here are pictures from this release

Paul releasing our bird Clara,

and one of both Clara and Cody Maverick (among some Adelie penguins), with Cody on the move, about to enter the water.

The ice edge was incredibly beautiful, and it was a wonderful feeling to once again hear open ocean lapping up against the shore.

With that our season has pretty much come to a close. We will release the rest of our birds tomorrow, and then it is time to break down the Penguin Ranch. Despite our slow beginning, it has been an incredibly productive and wonderful season out here on McMurdo Sound.