Friday, November 14, 2008

Visitors of all sorts !

The last 24 hours have been amazing. The helicopter from Endurance did not make it in but we have an amazing set of visitors of other sorts drop by.

Fin Whales, Humpbacks and Minke Whales were all spotted yesterday afternoon in the area just off station. These are our first whale sightings of the summer and exciting to everyone. Also last night, we spotted a group of Chinstrap Penguins ashore at Split Rock Island. Of the three local penguin species, "Chinnies" are the least common and even the old timers here were excited.

And then this morning, unbelievably, a Chinstrap came ashore here during our morning break and while we were watching it, a juvenile Humpback Whale swam right up along the pier, playing for a good long time. Seemingly, they were both here for friendly hello and a look at us, or perhaps, for the fishing off Torgerson Island. Fantastic !!

I don't photos of anything yet, just one of the Chinnies on Split Rock.
The Endurance vessel is coming in this morning and visiting via zodiacs. More later.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Late Breaking News

This morning we got a radio call from the British Royal Navy Ship 'Endurance'. They are in the area and would like to "drop in for a small hello" via helicopter. Word is, their galley isn't as good as ours and they would like some fresh baked cookies. I'm unbelievably excited as these will be the first new faces I will have seen in 8 weeks. Our band of 24 people is just fine but newness is exciting, even if its just for a few hours. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reader Poll !

Gentle Readers, I'm in a need of some advice. This blog is for you and I'd like to make it interesting reading. What topics would you like to see and read about ? More animals and scenery ? Daily life and my job here ? Something else ? Please take a moment and send me a comment (you can do it using the comment button at the bottom of this post). I promise to listen ! xo, Louise

Torgerson Island Update

This weekend was bright and gorgeous with low winds. The perfect weather to visit the Adelie colony on Torgerson Island !

Marine biologists work here at Palmer under the Long Term Ecological Research program to track the populations of penguins and other seabirds. Most of the islands they work on are closed to visitors. We're lucky that Torgie (Torgerson) is a rather big island and half of it is open for visits. Over time, Torgerson is serving as a case study of the impact of human visits on the colony.

The long term view is that Adelie populations here on the western Antarctic Peninsula are way down. Dr. William Fraser of Old Dominion University is now leading what has been a 30-year field study. His group, the Polar Oceans Research Group is working to understand the connection between diminishing sea ice, variability in the marine ecosystem (Krill populations, water characteristics, etc) and the Adelie populations. The studies are very wide, combining field data and

But in the small view, the birds are still spectacular. Here's what I saw on Torgie on Sunday:

A large brown Weddell Seal had hauled up and was enjoying the day. She seemingly couldn't get comfortable on the sharp rocks and was in a slightly different place each time I saw her.

The colony is a noisy, busy place. All of the birds are concentrated in dense groups now. The few pioneers who had chosen new spots, maybe a bit higher or drier-seeming, that the regular locations have now given those up and joined with the others. All of the birds are standing in couples with one partner on the nest and the other preening or half-heartedly searching for more pebbles.

There is lots of squabbling and vocalizing. Minor arguments like this one between neighbors seem to break out every few minutes.

A lot of the nests have eggs. Kristen and Jen, the field biologists say its 30% or more. The birds seem to be proud parents, inspecting the eggs carefully when they stand up.

Some of the birds seem to be especially proud. This couple inspected their egg and then swayed and brayed at all of their neighbors. It was comical to see all of the other birds staring at them. Of course, I have no idea what they were really thinking but it seemed to be "look at us".

Here are just a couple more view of the day. The station is just visible in the background here, look for the blueish buildings.

This little guy just needed to stretch:

And a couple to wrap us: