19 March, 2000
We arrived in Palmer Station at 0900 this morning. It is cloudy but the temperature is still holding at about 1 degree. The morning
hours were occupied with rearranging equipment on the deck and packing samples. There was time in the afternoon for a trip to Bonaparte Island. This island is located directly across a small inlet from Palmer Station and can be reached by walking up across and down the glacier or by pulling yourself across the inlet on a zip
Bonaparte Island is the home to countless seals: Fur Seals, Weddell Seals, and Elephant Seals. We spent three hours just observing their antics.
Fur Seals are found on almost all of the Antarctic islands
and in large numbers on many of them. Fur Seals breed in harems and the males are very protective and aggressive. Many scientists have the scars of coming too close to fur seals. Pups are born in December. These seals have a diet of squid, fish and krill.
Weddell Seals are a fat seal. They are found throughout the Antarctic and farther south than any mammal except man. Their pups are born in September and October in colonies near cracks and holes
in the ice which allow the mothers access to the water. These animals wear their teeth down using them to scrape away ice to keep the breathing holes open. Some Weddells dive to 60m and remain under water for over an hour. They eat fish, squid and krill.
Elephant Seals are the world's largest seal. Males can reach
3.5 metric tons and 5 meters in length. They are found on most of the Antarctic Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Males spend the winter at sea and first haul out in August followed by the females. The males fight to see who will become the "beachmaster" . The pups grow very quickly on their mothers milk which is 50% fat. By the
time they are weaned at 22 days they are 4 times their birth weight. These seals eat mostly squid which they have to dive below 1 km to get.
This is the nesting season for Skuas which look much like brown gulls. The Skuas had nests in the high rocks on Bonaparte Island so we had to be careful to walk on the lower rocks so as not to disturb them. The Skuas would let you know when you got too close by buzzing your head.
Our evening ended with a pizza party which included the scientists and staff from Palmer Station and the shi[
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