Tagging Whales in the Antarctic Seas

Meanwhile, on the L.M. Gould
by -- January 27th, 2015

 

While we have been sampling whales and mapping krill around Palmer Station, Ari and Dave have been aboard the Antarctic Research Vessel L.M. Gould, doing much the same thing, except over a huge area. We are responsible for the fine scale – they are working at the broad scale. You can see the current position of the Gould here and follow Dave’s adventures on Twitter at @dioptrica.

 

Flukes & Gould

A humpback dives with the L.M. Gould in the background.

 

The Palmer LTER project samples a grid of stations that extends all the way down the Antarctic Peninsula, running from shore into pelagic waters. Consequently, Dave and Ari experience a much greater diversity of conditions and habitats, from the open waters off the continental slope to the fast ice along the margins of the continent.

 

Palmer LTER Grid

The Palmer LTER sampling grid.

 

Their progress has been hampered over the past couple of weeks by poor weather, a lack of whales (we seem to have had them all) and, finally, a mishap that ended with the line from an oceanographic mooring wrapped around one of the propeller shafts. The Gould made a stop at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) base at Rothera where divers tried unsuccessfully to remove the line. It’s a good thing the Gould has two engines, as she is limping along on only one.

 

DJ Iceberg

A big tabular iceberg near the L.M. Gould.

 

Over the last week, the Gould has been near the navigable limit of operations, very close to the ice edge. It’s a really cool environment, with a huge number of crabeater seals (everyone who has taken my marine mammals course knows that crabeater seals do not eat crabs, but instead feast on krill). Dave has been sampling scat samples (seal poo) on ice floes with his patented Antarctic Pooper Scooper. He is justifiably proud of his work.

 

Pooper Scooper

It’s difficult keeping the Antarctic clean – one poop sample at a time…

 

We’re looking forward to reuniting with Dave, Ari and the rest of the LTER team next week when they stop in to Palmer Station to pick us up for what is likely to be a very slow trip north across the Drake to Punta Arenas, Chile.

 

Grey-Headed Albtaross

Grey-headed albatross near the L.M. Gould. Photo by Dave Johnston.

 

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