Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Seal Watch

We STILL can't get to our field sites. Mars Oasis is too cloudy for the plane to  land. Maybe tomorrow!

Instead, today I helped the marine biologists. There are many marine biologists at Rothera Station that study the invertebrates living on the bottom of the ocean. To do their research, they have to scuba dive in the bay that borders the research station. The cold water is their first danger, so they wear protective suits. There are a couple other dangers they must avoid, which are leopard seals and orcas (killer whales). Humans in dive suits underwater can easily be mistaken for a seal, penguin, or other tasty morsel that these animals eat. Because they have attacked humans before, the marine biologists can't dive if one is in the area

Safety rules require that someone be on what we call "seal watch". That person scans the area for leopard seals and orcas for 30 minutes before the diver gets in the water, and also while they're diving. If one is seen, the diver must immediately leave the water and cannot go back in for four hours after the animal was last seen. There's nothing we can do to remove the animal if one is seen, so the divers have to wait until they decide to leave, which could be days!
The pier at Rothera Station

So this morning I was on Seal Watch for the marine biologists. I stood at the end of the pier and watched the bay for wildlife with a pair of binoculars. It's pretty nice job, since it was sunny, with no wind, and relatively warm! I didn't see any seals or whales at all, so the marine biologist was able to complete her work.