Tagging Whales in the Antarctic Seas

Best in Snow
by -- February 16th, 2013

 

After retrieving our minke whale tag on Valentine’s Day, we dropped Nick Gales off at Port Lockeroy and headed back to Wilhelmina Bay.  We had hoped to go ashore in Port Lockeroy, but it was blowing like stink, so we got some much needed rest as we steamed back north.  It then started to snow.  And it snowed.  And snowed.  And snowed some more.  The crew on the Point Sur were busy shoveling snow off the decks all night.  We had an accumulation of 10 inches overnight and then it snowed again most of yesterday.

The back deck on the Point Sur

Ari, Doug and I went out to look for humpback whales in the snow yesterday morning – it was a beautiful, if futile, venture.  We couldn’t see more than 150 meters or so and even if we had heard a whale, I don’t think we could have found it.  So we had another quiet day on the Point Sur.

Doug is ready for – what, exactly?

It finally cleared yesterday evening after dinner and we went out again in search of whales.  We found a rather obstreperous humpback who played hide and seek with us, but would not let us get close enough to tag.  We had just given up and were about to head back to the Point Sur when Bob called over the radio to tell us about a group of 10 or so minke whales close by.  We went over and, sure enough, found some of our old friends, including one of the animals carrying a satellite tag.  We looked at each other and said “Why not give it a try?”

We were unsuccessful with our first two passes on this group of whales and were about to give up when one of the whales sidled up to our boat and Ari plonked an Acousonde on its back.  Minke whale suction cup tag number two!  I’d like to be able to tell you that we tracked the whale all night, but we lost contact with it at 11:00 PM, just after it got dark, and didn’t hear from it again until 5:00 AM this morning, when it finally floated to the surface, to our considerable relief.  We retrieved the tag very close to the shore of Emma Island and downloaded the data before breakfast…

Snow pancakes on the water

Thanks to Ari for this blog title – which is the answer to the question “How did the polar bear do at Westminster”

 

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