Saturday, October 14, 2006

Seals Have Been Found

I got my first look at our colony of Weddells seals today, and they are something! Big, fat, lazy and quite cute. We've been spending the last few days doing all number of tasks, setting up camp, flagging safe routes through the snow and finding seals.

Below: Angry Mother

Below: Regina walking up to a male Weddell

Below: New born pup and mother, with blood and placenta behind

Below: Bloody MaleOur camp is in a stunning location, as I'm sure I've mentioned, andonce we are out there for good, hopefully tomorrow, it will be quite a relief, though the easy food will disappear, as will the showers. Our camp consists of several trailers, 4 Scott tents for sleeping/storage and one Scott tent for a toilet. We will have electricity and heat in the trailers, quite nice and all the snow and ice you could ask for. The camp is approximately 15 miles by snowmobile route from McMurdo, 30 minutes if you drive quickly. I'm starting to get used to snowmobiles, and it is something to zip along the ice at 100 km/hr. A bit unnerving at first, but I'm becoming more and more comfortable on them, and except for the occasional bump which sends you flying through the air, the ride is quite smooth. You feel unbelievably free here, zipping along without a care in the world, except for the bitter winds, but the gear is doing a nice job keeping that away. The last few days have been superb weather, very little wind, and temperatures hovering around 0, perfect for October in Antarctica. The team has had some tensions, but hopefully when we get out on the ice and really start to do some work that will all slip away.

Today the wind picked back up. We did some work, finishing up the camp setup, storing some sledges and equipment, and opening up fishing holes. Luckily there wasn't a whole lot to do as the wind was blowing and it was cold. As best we could estimate, winds were blowing in the vicinity of 40 miles per hour in gusts, and 20 mph sustained, on top of -15 t0 -20 degree temperatures, and snowmobiles going along at 50 mph equals a very cold time. My balaclava actually froze solid from my breath adding moisture. That is one of the most bizarre things here, your breath freezes to your facial hair and equipment in a matter of seconds, something I'd never really experienced before. It is also amazing how quickly you adapt to the cold temperatures. Two months ago, the thought of walking outside in just a t-shirt and jeans when the temps hovered around zero would seem ludicrous, but now it feels downright tropical. When we are out working at camp you get so sweaty you need to remove layers, which can be tricky because as soon as the windproof layers are removed you are open to serious cold. We spend so much time removing layers, and digging through pockets, but these things come with the territory. Well I apologize for the rambling blog entry. I am delirious from snowmobile fumes, and tired from a long cold day. Tomorrow we are off to the ice camp, and with that, I hope, will come some very interesting entries.

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