9 November, 2003
With the first census complete, today was a day to catch up on tagging and weighing. Mark and I headed off to North Base and Turk's Head to tag the untagged pups and females that had been seen yesterday. Darren and Kelly worked at the Big Razorback colony, near camp, to continue Darren's weighing project. Gillian spent the day entering our census figures into the database. Some of the field computers had decided to quit working during the census, so she had to enter all the hand-recorded data from the southern section of the research area into another computer. This is why we write everything down in a notebook and don't assume that all the information will be easily recorded in those handy little computers. You just can't beat a pencil and notebook in the field for data collection-no batteries, no electronic glitches, and if it breaks or you run out of lead you just pull out a new one. Oh yeah-they're cheap, too.
As we were wandering amongst the seals at Turk's Head, it was impressive to see how big some of the pups were getting. A few were in the water, shivering and swimming, while others were lounging about in the sun with their mothers. At the same time, there were 3 brand-new pups, born to mothers who had been counted during yesterday's census. The number of pups born each day has decreased noticeably. Today we tagged only 3 new pups at Turk's Head and 2 at North Base. There were a few pups born in the last 24 hours at Big Razorback, as well. This is a contrast to the 15 to 20 new pups we were finding each day at some of the larger colonies.
In the evening, Darren, Kelly, and I set off to check on some of our non-seal neighbors. We headed out around 10 pm to Cape Royds to the Adelie Penguin rookery to see what was new at the edge of the ice. It was another beautiful evening, clear, mostly windless, and fairly warm. Since this is a protected area, we did our penguin-viewing from the ice and an adjacent rocky outcropping. There appeared to be more penguins at the rookery than had been there the previous visit. The males were busily engaged in nest building, collecting small pebbles and bringing them back to their nest area. One male was most industrious, collecting pebbles from the nest of another to bring back to his site. It would be interesting to trace the movements of some of those pebbles throughout the colony during a nesting season!
Cape Royds is now very much at the edge of the ice. When we climbed up for a view we could see open water close by. It was kind of startling to see all that water. It's been far too easy to forget that we are spending our whole time in Antarctica living and working with just 3 meters of ice separating us from the water. As the spring progresses into summer it will be interesting to see just how much closer the 'edge' becomes. In this case the phrase 'living on the edge' could have a whole new meaning.
The days are warming up. Today's high temperatures were near 0C (32F). Living in a place with 24 hours of sunshine (in between the storms) means that thermal change comes quickly here as the sun becomes higher in the sky. Our heavy down parkas are almost too warm to wear once we get to the seal colonies. So now we've added another item to the 'best-dressed' list of researcher attire-the uninsulated red nylon wind jacket. On many days this week it was much more comfortable to work in this wind-resistant layer than in a 5 lb down parka. At this point, it's not the cold-it's the wind that we need to avoid.
Trading rocks in rookeries
Watch them build their nests
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