Wilhelmina Bay (Mon., 5/24/10)- When the snow clouds touch water
by Patrick Halpin -- May 25th, 2010
Today the snow clouds came down to sea level and covered the water in a thick blanket of low visibility and constant snow.
We had a lot of work to do so we could not let the weather get in the way. We launched a tag recovery boat to track and pick up the tag from the day before and also launched the prey mapping boat to map krill around the area of the tag before pickup.
The snow and waves caused for some wet crew in the small boats, but we successfully recovered the tag and mapped the area before lunch. We decided to return to the main ship and reload the boats on deck so we could move our entire operation to a better location for finding the next set of whales. So we had a hot lunch break on the Palmer (a fairly rare treat for the small boat teams) and then we re-launched the prey boat and the tag boat.
After pursuing several sets of whales in the snowy mist, the tag boat was able to get another whale tagged and several biopsy samples. The prey boat was able to collect good krill mapping data in the vicinity so it a successful day on the water on all accounts.
A disturbing bit of litter… A reminder of the far reach of human impacts.
After spending time in the icy white of Antarctica it is impossible not to feel that you are truly in the last pristine place on earth. So even the smallest trace of human society is amplified a thousand fold. While mapping for krill I noticed a plastic wrapper floating at the surface. In any other ocean, you would notice some trash, pick it up and grumble about littering boaters. But here in the remoteness of Antarctica you spot even a single piece of trash and it represents a more serious affront, the despoiling of our last collective frontier. What I found floating on the surface was a common “ramen noodle” wrapper of East Asian origin. What it represents is not just a small piece of litter but is also likely the telltale trace of a fishing fleet somewhere off the horizon. This was a small but stark reminder that the pristine quality of the Antarctic frontier is not fully out of the reach of human impact.