Wind Speed: 9 knots
One morning during breakfast, while ganging up on the New York Times crossword (a daily routine for some), we watched a young seal worm its way up the boat ramp and onto the boat house deck. As you know, we get regular visits from wildlife: elephant seals behind Bio, penguins on the pier, Sheathbills on the roofs. But it's a little unusual for a seal to crawl right up onto the wooden deck of the boat house. Of course, everyone runs outside with a camera at this point. Little did we know, we'd be seeing quite a bit of this young seal over the next week.
We determined that it was a young elephant seal, and decided it must be a girl, probably because of those adorable big baby seal eyes. She soon became known as Cesealia, or Sealia for short. She stayed on the deck, napping and scratching, for about three days. We became used to her, and she became comfortable with us. The Antarctic Conservation Act states that you cannot disturb the wildlife, and the rule of thumb is that if they change their behavior at all, you're too close. But the nice thing is that the wildlife here is so accustomed to people that we are often able to get very close indeed. And sometimes the critters come curiously right up to your feet. In Sealia's case, we would just work around her, and she didn't seem to mind at all:
This went on for about a week, but we knew we'd need the boat house ramp eventually. Under the special circumstances of impeding work, we are allowed to interfere. So Bob, the station manager, tried to head her off at the pass the next time we caught her on her way back in from fishing. They did an odd jig with each other for a while, Bob trying to stay in the way and Sealia trying to go around. He even tried whispering sweet nothings:
We've begun to have other visitors as well. Most exciting are the whales. This is an Antarctic Minke:
They're not terribly big, as whales go; they tend to shy away from nearby Zodiacs; and they rarely breach (jump out of the water), generally just showing their dorsal fin. So the Minkes are usually distant and not terribly exciting. But Humpbacks are a more curious species. They've been known to approach and circle boats, spy-hop and breach. And in addition to their dorsal, they typically show their tail (often called fluking) as they swim along:
We've started to see Humpbacks regularly, and they've come in as close as the tip of Gamage Point, which is the thin peninsula of rock extending about 100 yards from the buildings on station.
On a side note, we have three journalists on station for the next few weeks. One of them is a former National Geographic photo/video journalist and now works for National Public Radio. For some fantastic photos, check out his blog: