Those of you who followed our blogs in previous years know that we worked in the autumn and early winters, when humpback whales pack into the bays and fjords along the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula to gorge on krill before they migrate to their breeding grounds in the tropics. This year we are working in the summer, so were prepared for lower densities of whales and krill, but so far, so good. In our first two days of work we have encountered a large number of humpback, minke and killer whales in our old stomping grounds in Andvord and Wilhelmina Bays and the Gerlache Strait.
So far, the whales have been co-operative – in the first two days we deployed 10 satellite tags on humpback whales and single tags on killer and minke whales. We have also collected a couple of dozen biopsy samples and conducted standardized visual and prey surveys in the two bays. The weather has been fantastic and the days are long, so we are really able to be very productive. The crew on the R/V Point Sur is great and are keeping us safe, well fed and productive.
And, of course, this is one of the most beautiful and remote places on earth, so our working environment is rather special. We’ve had a couple of close encounters with leopard seals (see above) and often find ourselves saying – wow, this is a really beautiful place. And then we round a corner into another bay and we say it again.