Friday, January 11, 2013

Penguins and Seals and BLAST termination: January 11, 2013

Friday morning, BLAST's flight officially came to an end. They made basically one full trip around the continent and were cut down very close to the path of the South Pole Traverse. This is the route taken by the convoy of vehicles that drive to the South Pole with supplies each season. It sounds like the plan is to have most of their payload picked up in a couple of weeks when the traverse comes by on its way back to McMurdo.

After lunch, I walked to Hut Point. On the way out, I got word that there was a "whole flock" of penguins out there, so I hurried out. When I got there, there were 9 penguins hanging around. I sat around and watched them for a while.

 

Eventually, one of the penguins really seemed to want to go in the water. He squawked at the others and started walking over to the water's edge.



At first, some of them followed him over but some of them stayed behind lying down.


They got over to the edge, but then some of them got bored or something, and went back to what they were doing before.



Then the first penguin jumped into the water. Once the other 8 saw that he hadn't been eaten by a predator, they all hurried over to the edge.


Then, they all jumped into the water one by one.



A closer shot of one jumping in (if these photos have been pixellated, it's because they're zoomed-in versions of a larger shot):


Then, it they were all in the water and they started swimming around the pool of melted sea ice right off the tip of Hut Point.



Then, they came a lot closer to us:


For a while, they just kind of swam laps around the pool.


They were jumping in and out of the water. This is the best picture I got of that:


Eventually, though, they swam off into the crack where the seals hang out. That was the last I saw of them. 



Earlier, while I'd been waiting around for the penguins to get up and do something exciting, we were treated to a visit by a swimming seal. 


The water off of Hut Point was really clear today, and this seal swam right up to the edge of the land.


Compared to how slow and ungainly they look on land, a seal in the water seems extremely graceful.


This seal swam off under water after a few minutes. I guess there wasn't anything interesting around Hut Point.


After the penguins swam off, I hiked around the Observation Hill Loop and headed back into town. Then it was time for dinner (delicious steak. It's a harsh continent.) and another exciting monitoring shift. We're still not done with our second trip around, but that should finish up in the next day or so and we'll start our third revolution.


1 comment:

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