Yesterday did not go at all how I expected it to. But sometimes that can be a very good thing.

I could totally be a Weddell seal! No difference at all.

We were meant to drive the Piston Bully out to Cape Evans, do a little bit of work, and then go tour Scott’s historic hut there. Scott’s Hut at Cape Evan’s is protected under the Antarctic Treaty System as an Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) number 155. The hut has a management plan that limits the number of visitors, and requires that all visitors have a permit to enter. Such a system limits the foot traffic, and possibility for damage to the hut. It actually is a great system, after 100 years and several preservation efforts the hut still looks great. I wish I had pictures to show you but another group beat us to getting the key and permit for the day. We did our work a safe distance away from the hut. Ah well maybe another day I will get to go inside one of the historic huts.

Black flags are used to mark hazards, including seal holes.

When I grow up I want to be a driller! We use these little hand drills to profile cracks in the sea ice. We drill down until we hit water. Then we note how wide the span is from the first and last water holes. That is the width of the crack. If the crack is wider than 1/3 the length of the vehicle tracks, we can't cross it.

Hmm? Is this a Weddell seal, or D.C. Monster Cat? 🙂

Because we didn’t have the hut permit, but had budgeted time to go to the hut, we had lots of time to explore the sites along the road between McMurdo Station and Cape Evans. We stopped and visited with a Weddell seal who was hauled out along the road (and another one who was hanging out at Cape Evan). Then we got the best surprise…..

Here I am! I'm coming!

I don't walk I waddle!

Are you a penguin?

When we were nearly back to McMurdo Station, we saw an Adelie penguin on the side of the road and two more in the distance. It was fantastic. Adelies have so much personality and spunk! Unfortunately for these guys, they were headed in the wrong direction. They were on a misguided march away from the ocean towards the dry valleys. No one knows why seals and penguins make this determined march away from the sea. In years past some scientists have tried to intercept the animals and turn them around to face the ocean with no luck. Because there is no food or accessible water in the Dry Valleys, these penguins will likely end up mummified (see for an example photo). I hope that they come to their senses and turn around before it is too late.

Maybe we should take a closer look. Adelies are known for their curiosity.

Why walk when you can sled on your own belly?

Off into the sunset... or something. There will not be sunset in Antarctica for a few months yet.

Also a big “YAY” for the piston bully. We made it to Cape Evans and back without having to be rescued. My faith is piston bullies is slowly increasing. Not sure what the next few days hold for me. The weather is GORGEOUS. It is 37F and clear, so we shall see what happens.

8 thoughts on “Surprise

  1. Are you referring to Skelly in the photo of the seal? Or is there ANOTHER evil cat in DC?
    i love the seals and penguins!!

  2. Okay… i know what you are thinking… no messages from aunt laura…. how can that be…. well … if you really want to know… and what i am not to proud to share… i have never actually scrolled down to the very bottom of the page…. i finally figured it out… i am so embarassed….

  3. My students want to know about the animals in the pictures. What is their survival rate? Do you see obvious global warming? In the summer months such as now, what is the average day and night temperature? Also, what is the population of people that live in this area?

  4. Hi Aunt Denise,

    I am going to send you an e-mail with better answers..but I thought I would post the cliff-notes response here.

    1) Survival rate of animals (penguins and seals) is going to take a bit more explaining…

    2) A lot of the evidence for global climate change (formerly known as global warming) was found in Antarctic ice cores. Another way to assess global climate change is to look at long records (decades long) of weather data (snow fall, wind, temperature). The Antarctic Peninsula seems to be changing very rapidly indeed. New snow fall patterns have resulted in penguin species re-distributing themselves. Adelie penguins (pictured above), need ice, but can’t breed in snow. They are abandoning some of their traditional breeding grounds in the Peninsula as they get buried in snow.

    3) At McMurdo Station in the summer time, the temperature tends to be within a few degrees of freezing. Right now it is a few degrees above, so we are having a melt. We don’t have night right now. In the summer the sun never sets, it just appears to move in a big circle around. There isn’t even dawn/dusk/ twilight this time if year. In the winter it never rises.

    4) No one lives in the McMurdo Station area full time. In the summer months, there are about 1,100 people at McMurdo Station, 90 people at neighboring Scott base, and less than 100 deployed to the near field camps. So There are less than 1,300 people in the McMurdo vicinity.


  5. Just getting caught up on your blog posts. It’s SO COOL that you saw Adelie penguins and I love the pictures!

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