Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mother and Child???

(from Paul)

Here are our visitors - beyond cute. At first glance, we thought it was a Weddell seal mother and her pup that had crawled across the ice and had stopped by the ranch for a rest. However, the pup is an unusual color since most Weddell seal pups are light brown and this one is white.

Jerry says that this is a Weddell seal accompanied by a juvenile crabeater seal. We haven't seen this behavior before, and it is unclear if they are just travelling together, or if the crabeater has been "adopted" by the Weddell.


It looks like the Weddell was bitten on the neck in a fight in the water, and has chosen to find a new dive hole.


She is taking her adopted pup with her as she wanders across the ice, looking for another crack or hole.


There are some cracks within a mile of the ranch, and I am sure they will reach those holes soon.


Both look healthy; both are quite large.  So both should do well.


And a photo from Jessica of the two seals seeking shelter from the wind. Now that the storm is over, they have moved on.




Mother & child

Thanksgiving Dinner at Penguin Ranch

(from Paul)

We had a great Thanksgiving dinner. Cass outdid herself in cooking. Below is a photo of Cass cooking with Jessica, Kozue, and Brendan appreciating the end result.


Jessica and Brendan at the table. We had pork tenderloin, yams, asparagus frittata, stuffing, a fruit salad, and cornbread along with wine.


The entire group sits down to the meal. And, for dessert, spice cake with strawberries. It was really quite good.


And Cass’ recorder birds dove well this afternoon; "Oprah" was the star diver. It looks like the weather is clearing. I hope it is over. I have also attached some post-storm pictures of the camp.


Tomorrow we will remove all the instrumentation. Perhaps the group will be able to make the dinner in town after all.


Friday, November 28, 2008

The Storm Continues

(from Paul)

The birds do not mind the storm at all. If it is real windy, they huddle behind the snow wall or just lie down on the ground and fall asleep. Even in the mild winds (25 mph), they will stand and preen, seemingly oblivious of the weather. It does not phase them in the slightest.

We, on the other hand, are pretty much confined to the huts most of the time. The photo below shows some of the buildings and the blowing snow.


The two below are of Kozue taking pictures of the birds in the storm.DSC_9372s


Jessica was stuck in town because the storm came on so quickly, and the visibility is too poor to travel now. As usual, the weather controls all in Antarctica.

We may not make it in to the big Thanksgiving dinner in McMurdo (held tomorrow – Saturday – our time) since the storm may continue for another day.


We are having a Thanksgiving dinner here, instead. I have made a spice cake, and Cass is making the pork tenderloin and goodies.

The weather cleared for a few hours, and Jessica was able to return to camp. Our experimental birds did some more dives and we plan to take all the recorders off tomorrow morning if the weather permits. Otherwise, it was a quiet day. We just closed the dive holes and will be starting dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving, America!

Our best wishes to everyone.


A Storm Day

(photos from Paul)

We are having a little colder weather today with winds and light, intermittent, blowing snow. All the birds are diving, though less often. Cass's recorder birds are diving, which is the important thing. 

The PO2 electrode only worked for about half the day, but we still were able to record some shallow dives that were as long as 12 min. So, that is valuable data.  Not much else is happening, since we are just letting the birds dive today.

Some blowing snow is collecting on the periphery of the camp, but none in the corral. I hope this wind is only temporary so that we can record more dives. The penguins lose interest in the high winds. (Can’t say that I blame them!)


The storm is not that dramatic, but certainly the wind should help with charging the batteries in the power sled.


Cass is making some omelets. We got fresh veggies from Peggy (the food room manager) yesterday. We cook with propane, using Coleman camp stoves.


Kozue and Brendan are in the foreground eating breakfast. Cass and Jessica are bent over the stove,


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Visit To Cape Royds

(photos from Jessica)

Cape Royds is known for two things. First of all, it is the location of an Adelie penguin colony, 


and next, it  is the site of Shackleton’s hut (1908) .


Shackleton built his hut during the Nimrod expedition, when Scott refused to give him permission to use the Discovery Hut. (The Discovery Hut is right next to McMurdo Station. see our blog, Scott's Hut, for photos.) Cape Royds is approximately 25 miles north of McMurdo.

On 9 January 1909, Shackleton and his group (Wild, Marshall and Adams) came within 112 miles of the geographical South Pole. Although Shackleton failed to reach the Pole, he lead the first  expedition to reach the  Polar Plateau, his group did the first ascent of Mount Erebus, and other members of his expedition (Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson, and Alistair MacKay) located the approximate position of the magnetic South  Pole. (The magnetic pole moves constantly, so it is no longer in the same location as when it was in 1909.)

Interior shots of the hut.

PB240018 PB240026

Kozue in the kitchen area of the hut


Brendan in the lab area of the hut.


On the way back from Cape Royds, Jessica also took a photo of the Barn Glacier.


Bye! And Thanks For The Fish!

(photos from Jessica)

Here are some photos from the release of the penguins.

Going home. Kozue opens the penguin box to let one of the birds go.


“What was THAT all about? I’ll never understand humans!”


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Mystery Visitor To Camp

(from Paul)

Yesterday, we had left the barn door open while taking out the boxes for the birds; when we returned the boxes, there was a black deposit on the snow inside. When I looked closer, I figured out it was skua guano. One must have wandered in when the door was open.

Sure enough, it looks as if Fred is back (or Fred’s cousin). I saw him hanging around today.

Fred is a South Polar Skua, Stercorarius maccormicki. They feed primarily on fish, but will rob nests and prey on penguin chicks. They are also highly adaptable and will scavenge human food if given a chance.

In fact, in McMurdo when the skuas return to the Antarctic, one has to take care walking across Derelict Junction holding food. The skuas have been known to bomb-dive humans and steal food right out of people’s hands. As a consequence, skuas have a bit of a bad reputation, but I admire them. They are smart, tough birds.

DSC_9338sDSC_9343s DSC_9347s DSC_9346s

Better Photos

Here are more photos of the landing shot in a proper ISO. (See previous entry – as you can see, the day wasn’t as gray as the photos posted earlier suggested.)

The birds all did well on release, and the ice edge is just as far out as it was. (The edge is all the way out to Beaufort Island.)

You can the helicopter coming in. It’s the black dot above the fence line. In the foreground, you can see the penguin’s snow wall, which serves as a wind break for them. They also like to eat the clean snow and, at times, enjoy climbing on the wall to look around.


The helo coming in for a landing.


Brendan and Jessica helping to unload the empty penguin boxes.


The helo going back to McMurdo.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Some Go Home

(from Paul)

Here are some pictures of the helicopter taking five of our birds back to the ice edge, where we originally caught them. The ice edge is so far away (~60 miles from camp) that we can’t release them directly from Penguin Ranch.

Unfortunately, I was still on ASA 3200 when I shot these photos, so most were burnt out. I did darken the photos some, but you lose a bit of detail from that.


These photos just show us loading the boxes. Each box contains one bird. The penguins tend to be calmer in a dark box, which makes it safer to transport them.


and the helo taking off,


in one shot, you can see Scotty the pilot.


We are now down to 10 birds!  One-third less guano to clean each day.

Photos From Camp

Here are some of Paul’s recent photos. Tonight, we are returning 5 birds back home to the ice edge.

Impatient birds waiting for the cork to be removed so that they can go diving.


Here’s one of Hillary exiting (we have a political theme for names this year)


Kozue and Jessica working on Kozue's recorder


Kozue’s 3D profile recorder. The rectangle of white tape is installed to protect the small propeller on the top of the recorder. That propeller records the penguin’s swim speed when they are hunting. The tape keeps the feathers down. Everything just peels off at the end of the experiment.


A photo of Brendan and Cass with the anesthesia setup


Shorty Is Becoming A Beach Ball

Shorty is our smallest penguin, but we know from the camera logger that he is good hunter. Here’s Paul’s photo of Shorty (on the right) after a particularly good day. I think that he is getting fat. These birds will need all the fat they can store to get through the harsh Antarctic winter.


Catching Rays

Paul and Jessica went diving at Turtle Rock. There were a lot of Weddell seals about because the sea ice forms cracks around islands and that allows the seals to come up on to the ice. Here are two photos of the seals that decided to catch a few rays on a nice day.

Ah! It doesn’t get any better than this!


A mother and her pup sun bathe.