Tagging Whales in the Antarctic Seas

Piccard Cove (Tues., 5/19/09) – Just Another “Normal” Day in the Antarctic
by -- May 21st, 2009

I am humbled to be a part of this experience and am continuously amazed at how a “normal” day for us here in the Antarctic is an extraordinary day in each and every one of our lives.

After two days full of non-ideal weather the MISHAP crowd arose today to one of the most beautiful days yet. Winds were down, seas were calm, and the peaks of mountains could be seen from miles away. To add to the beauty, we were back in one of our favorite locations, Piccard Cove in Wilhelmina Bay, where the whales are plump, the seals are plentiful, and the penguins flurry about. Our plan for the day was to try to replicate the visual survey we completed here over 10 days ago to see if any of the predator/prey dynamics have changed over that period of time. Were the krill still in a continuous deep dense layer (e.g. not patchy)? Were the whales as abundant throughout the area and were they still their fat and lazy selves during the daytime?

(76) Lindsey scans the seas for whales galore..

Lindsey scans the seas for whales galore..

The visual survey team (Dave, Andy, Eletta, Lindsey, and myself) were up for the challenge. As the sun rose (a little after 9am), we put on our game faces, raised our binoculars, and sprung into action. Lucky for us, the day did not disappoint. Over a cumulative survey time of only 3 hours we sighted 139 humpback whales, 2 minke whales, and a special appearance of a pod of 12 killer whales (Type B) to keep us on our toes. Never mind the thousands of penguins and tens of seals. One could say, it was just a “normal” day on the job for the visual team down here in the Antarctic. Wildlife galore!

While we were surveying for whales, the towfish was deployed for its first successful flight to map the krill around the Gould. Upon first views, it appears that the krill are now more patchy throughout this area than they were the last time we surveyed here. Meng and his crew agreed, as the ADCP and tows from the MOCNESS suggest there are now about 50% less krill here than before. This makes us even more excited to evaluate our visual survey effort to calculate whale density differences and plot whale locations to see if and how prey shifts may have affected the distribution and abundance of the whales.

Tonight we will dream of calm seas and plump lazy whales as we head towards Andvord Bay for another tagging attempt in the morning. I have to admit that I am humbled to be a part of this experience and am continuously amazed at how a “normal” day for us here in the Antarctic is an extraordinary day in each and every one of our lives. I only wish you could all be here to experience if with us!

p.s. Happy Birthday Ellie (Lindsey’s mom)!!!

1 Comment

  1. Lindsey's Mom
    May 21, 2009

    THANKS!

    How sweet for the shout out for my b’day! So sorry I missed Linds’ call. What an extraordinary day May 20th was for one “Ellie” with all of you engaged in such amazing research and so eloquently sharing the details. We’re as close to being there as we can be, thanks to the generosity of your blog. You rock!

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