12 December, 2000
FYI answer for 12/11/00
The coldest temperature ever recorded was -128.5 degrees F.
The winds can gust nearly 200 miles per hour on the coast.
The temperature once dropped 65 degrees F in 12 minutes.
The average continent precipitation is less than 2 inches per year.
The warmest temperature ever recorded was 59 degrees F.
If the sun ever went down, we would have been up before the sunrise this morning. Cory, Dan, and I got up to go climb Tent Island before joining everyone at 10 a.m. to begin packing. We drove the snowmobiles to Tent and started the climb. It took us about 30 to 45 minutes to get to the top. It was quite windy but clear. I was able to see so much from the top. The island is volcanic rock so it was covered with some fascinating rocks. We stayed up there for about a half hour and then came down. There is a crabeater seal that has been here all season, so Dan and Cory showed me where she was. It was very neat to see a different species after working with Weddells all season. The crabeater has actually become a part of the Weddell colony. We say she is a Weddell want-to-be.
We returned to Big Razorback and began the packing process. Mike had compiled a list and wrote it on a whiteboard so we could check it off when it was done. I had to go with Katsu to bag one of those two pups that we attached instruments to a few days ago. Mike also went because we had to weigh the pup. After shaving the instrument and epoxy off, we have to roll the pup onto a canvas mat that we hook to boards that we then lift and weigh like a scale in the supermarket. This pup was about 300 pounds. Cory and I chose to do some shoveling as our first task when we returned from the pup catch. We had a three foot drift that had covered the hitch that would be used to pull that hut back to McMurdo. The other hitchs were on the other sides, so we didn't have to dig them out.
The snowmobiles and hut 5 were our task for the rest of the day. We had to go through the snowmobiles and remove the first aid kits, the extra bungee cords, the extra spark plugs, fuel pumps, gas can nozzles, and ice spikes. Hut 5 had the food and dishes. We boxed up the food and dishes. We cleaned the shelves, swept the floor, and helped pack all the inside telephone and weather equipment.
Dan and I returned to Turks Head after Mike asked us to go ahead and get the head from the dead male seal that we discovered yesterday. Of the three animals, the male was the only one we would be able to get away from the water enough to cut the head off. Dan let me do the job this time. He talked me through the process. After the head was removed he went for a little hike and I stayed and cleaned the skull. I had quite a few Skuas around me ready for the meat pieces I was throwing from the skull. I was really surprised at myself. I couldn't believe I was actually cleaning a fairly fresh Weddell seal skull. I guess it is another great experience to record on this adventure.
We each took care of packing our personal gear that afternoon. We had our last dinner together and were just sharing stories when Mike noticed a pup right out the window next to the hut. We went outside and he told us it was not a Weddell pup, it was a Crabeater pup. They move so much quicker than Weddells. We all ended up diverting the pup from the ice crack so Mike and Dan could bag it, tag it, take a tissue sample and try to record the sex of the pup. It was a female. They are much smaller than Weddell seals. After that excitement all of us joined together to put all the stacked boxes and big equipment into hut 11 before heading to bed. This will be my final sleepover in hut 16.
Weddell seals have been known to hold their breath up to _____ minutes. They have the greatest degree of __________ amongst seals. They hunt for food in almost total darkness. They eat fish and __________ and occasionally krill. Their largest predator, the _____________ seal, stays out on the pack ice, so there is less danger during the Austral spring.
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