Tagging Whales in the Antarctic Seas

All the Diamonds in the World
by -- February 13th, 2013

 

For the last week we have been working in pretty cloudy conditions with – as you may remember from Matt’s blog – snow, sleet, and all manner of other frozen precipitation.  When we woke up this morning we were completely shrouded in fog.  Visibility was no more than 100 m or so at breakfast – not ideal for finding whales.  Slowly, however, as the sun rose, the fog burned off, revealing the remarkable beauty of this place, with granite mountains, snow-covered glaciers calving into the Bay, and sparkling blue water.

Wilhelmina Bay

Before the fog completely burned off Ari, Doug, John and I took the ‘Red Rocket’ out in the fog to look and listen for whales.  This involved puttering around small ice bergs and occasionally turning the motor off to listen for whale blows.  Almost hypnotically peaceful.  And, of course, we had to stop for the occasional group of penguins to swim by on their way to do whatever it is that penguins do on a foggy morning.

Eventually John spotted a sleeping whale from a distance.  We crept up on it at a snail’s pace, trying to make sure that we did not wake it up, and eventually got close enough that Ari was able to plonk an Acousonde tag on it’s back.  It never moved.  Some of you may remember the infamous video of Dave Johnston tagging a whale down here a couple of years ago – well this whale was even sleepier.  Eventually it woke up, moved off a hundred meters or so and went back to sleep.

Reny, Matt and Scott following our whale in Wilhelmina Bay

We spent the rest of the day following this whale as it slept and fed in Wilhelmina Bay.  There was a nice layer of krill in the upper 50 m of the water column (the Bay is up to 600 m deep) and the whale was quite happy to stay here all day.  Nick also deployed his last two satellite tags – it was too windy out in the Gerlache Strait for John and Bob to chase killer whales.  Our Acousonde tag eventually came off just after dinner – another great day down here.

Watching the fog lift over Wilhelmina Bay this morning reminded me of an old Bruce Cockburn song:

All the diamonds in this world

That mean anything to me

Are conjured up by wind and sunlight

Sparkling on the sea

 

2 Comments

  1. PJ Hardin
    Feb 13, 2013

    now i’m curious about dave johnston’s infamous video of tagging a whale. i’m a new subscriber, so i missed it – back in the day…

    • Andy Read
      Andy Read
      Feb 14, 2013

      PJ – the blog entry now has a link to that infamous video. Enjoy…

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