Tagging Whales in the Antarctic Seas

Errera Channel (Wed., 5/6/09) – Leopard Seals
by -- May 7th, 2009

Sometimes days don’t go quite as planned, but opportunities do arise.

We started the day with a stiff breeze (>40knts) so we were not able to splash the small boats first thing as we had hoped. So instead we continued doing oceanographic surveys and working on making the acoustic “tow-fish” fly. Later in the afternoon we reached a calm patch in the Errera Channel and splashed the tag and prey Zodiac boats.

Ari, Allison, Dave and Toby went out in the tag boat, Elliott, Chance and I went in the prey-mapping Zodiac. The waters were calm, but the whales were beginning to get too active late in the day to get a tag on. We saw an iceburg calve off a good size chunk of ice almost directly on top of two humpback whales while we used the acoustic mapper to map krill in the channel. The whales did not seem concerned in the least and kept moving on as if nothing happened.

We happened to find ourselves near a penguin colony and when penguins are around so are their predators; the leopard seal. We saw several leopard seals very close up. One swam directly on the side of the prey-mapping Zodiac and Dave was able to put an underwater “drop-camera” in the water and get some great close-up footage of leopard seals. So even though we didn’t get a tag out, the alternative opportunity to film leopard seals underwater arose. All-in-all, not a bad day…

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