Sunday, November 18, 2007

On the sea ice of the Southern McMurdo

The drill rig is situated on multi-year ice (shore-fast ice) adjacent to the Transantarctic Mountains. In the image you can just make out the drill rig in the distance. Those blue ice areas in the front are frozen meltwater pools, which developed during the last summer season and froze again during the winter (remember that the seasons are opposite here to those of the Northern Hemisphere). The surface of the sea ice can be dirty from dust and rock particles blown onto it by storms or material carried by small meltwater streams. Fresh snow gives the surface a bright and white color, but the sea ice surface is never smooth: the wind sculpts and erodes the snow into sastrugi. Most of the sea ice travel is on flagged routes, where the sastrugi have been plained off.

The sea ice is the habitat of penguins and seals. I didn't see any penguins this year, only footprints so far. I did see a seal flapping around in the distance. Most of the seals we see here are Weddell seals, who are endemic to the Antarctic region. Weddell seals primarily feed on fish. There is also a predatory seal here: the Leopard seal. Divers and biologists studying the seal and fish populations are always on the lookout for Leopard seals. They are solitary hunters and can follow their prey for a long distance without being noticed. Some close encounters have occurred, but no major injuries have been reported.


Anonymous said...

Hi there!

We are studying Eastern Hemisphere countries this year in our homeschool and we just covered Antarctica. So cool to see someone from NJ is actually down there now. We've bookmarked your blog and will be following your adventures.
Happy Thanksgiving!
The Drake family

Anonymous said...

I think that what you are doing is amazing. I was a former student of yours about two semesters ago. Since taking your class I have been facinated by geology. Good luck and be safe.

Anthony A. Perez