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Met Eish


Issue Three: 27 March - 6 April 2010

27 March


e arrived at the Fermenters and found two likely candidates. We were still deciding whether the bigger of the two was accessible in his kelp wallow, if his head was dry or not and whether it would start raining, when it did start raining! We continued towards the Puti Boys* and found a lone bull in post-moult stage. He was one of the animals we had been eyeballing previously among the Puti Boys. Horst loaded up the drugs and was about to deliver when we double-checked his head and found that the area where we would glue the device was wet, forc-

ing us to abort. On to the other groups of bulls - found no-one alone or in a sheltered spot. As we headed out after some snacks in the refugio (Puti Klub) there was a break in the rain and even a spot of sun with menacing clouds all around. The bull we had targeted earlier had shifted ever so slightly and the exact spot where we had to glue was completely dry, with the rest of his body wet. We managed to immobilise him (thanks to Horst’s very effective blowpipe/Zoletil system see box), get the towel over his eyes and get the epoxy on before the rain arrived again. Nico sat on the bull’s back and shielded the epoxy site with his body while Ryan did the gluing. It worked perfectly despite the pouring rain!


traight back to base into the now increasing wind and pouring rain that turned to slushy snowfall. We arrived in high spirits and then even higher spirits when we found out we were completely dry under our Taiga gear! Horst was soaked through given that he does not have Taiga. This may be shameless promotion, but the clothing really is brilliant.

The moulting Puti Boys. NdB.

28 March


ortunately, given the menacing mist and cloud, we found candidates at the Fermenters, relatively near base. We successfully deployed on a big old fellow: 4.3m in length and near 2,000kg. As elephant seals lose about a third of their body mass while moulting, this means he would weigh near 3,000kg normally. We then decided to go for a scarred and weathered-looking, yet smaller, chap. We were forced to get down and dirty in an effort to roll his 1,500kg bulk out of his wallow in an effort to improve his posture and thereby his breathing. He recovered well and headed straight out to sea. It was fantastic to have Horst around with his veterinary knowledge to explain what was happening to the animal and how to react most appropriately. 29 March


he Iridium phone unexpectedly rang here in the Dallman lab. It was the base commander at Rothera station (in the Antarctic proper) letting us know that the Shackleton would arrive that afternoon. They tried to call Jubany but he Argies did not answer. The “Shack�, as the crew of the RV Ernest Shackleton call her, arrived at about 16:00. We helped to carry the mountain of German summer equipment to the beach while we waited for the ship to launch their barge, called Thula, which looks like something employed to storm the beaches of Normandy. A whole host of Brits poured onto the beach (here now, not Normandy) and assisted and greeted and chatted, while the little Shack was waiting in the cove with the glaciers as backdrop. We helped to load and waited and loaded - the general Hurry Up and Wait routine of Antarctic expeditions. This said, the English were pretty quick about the whole thing and in two hours the mountains of cargo and Patrick, Sanja and Harald were on their way to the ship, leaving the four of us (Nico, Ryan, Horst and Jochen) alone with the Argentines. For those who have overwintered on Marion, it felt very much like the day when the SA Agulhas departs after take-over, and it dawns on you that you are now here to stay. The Dallman is so quiet and the base truly has an overwintering feeling to it.


s the Shack prepared to leave, a Chilean military helicopter landed at Jubany to do no less dramatic thing than to drop off... a single letter. Addressed to a German that had left a month ago. We were told it was the Chilean way of timing a chopper flight to Jubany to impress the British and show their presence. The whole situation was highly entertaining for us, as we are continuously one

Walk like a gentoo. RR.

step behind (only due to our lack of Spanish of course!).


oozball seems to be the national Antarctic sport. We play against the Argies and the Germans, but we are continuously and solidly whipped. We haven’t won a game yet, and we hope this is not a precursor to Bafana’s World Cup performance (hmmm...). 30 March


ico is probably the only person I know who has fallen through an iced pool and then walked deeper into the pool to escape. We’ll blame the temperature for his reasoning. We found a nice bull close to the Puti Boys and Horst did another excellent immobilisation. The boy gave us a scare in the middle of the immobilisation when he suddenly lifted his head and bumped into Ryan and Jochen, but then relaxed again and the deployment and photogrammetry went well. We continued walking past Stranger Point to count adult and sub-adult bulls back to base again. We named a new little huddle of males beyond Stranger Point the Australians as they are lying in what we called the Outback. 31 March


t some evil hour of the morning a cold drop of water woke Nico. It had been raining for a while and finally the drops had made their way through some secret gaps and crannies and were now targeting his warm, sleeping face. Some emergency modifications were necessary before he could sleep peacefully. The bane of those who choose to live in 20 year old Apple huts. Computer work inside as the wet kept us from any deployments. 01 April


ico’s construction above the bed was stable. Not a single drop of water on him, but many on the floor. Hence the word “stable” instead of “successful”. No large enough lads for deployment and so we used the intermittent sunshine for some photography, but a biting cold wind nudged us back to base. 02 April


oday was Malvinas (Falkland Islands) Remembrance Day in Argentina. We woke at about 07:40 to be ready to join the parade in front of the flagpole at 08:30. A military affair with salutes and steps and shuffles, but very memorable and moving. Despite not understanding the words, we could read the emotion involved on the faces of the Argentines. We really appreciated being invited to join the ceremony; the Argentines are exceptionally hospitable people. During the minute of silence a skua called loudly (talk about timing), but

Gravitational anomalies on King George.

Top: For Nico, life’s a beach. Bottom: Ryan joins a young Weddell seal in the snow. RR & NdB.

sombre nonetheless. The mood was lifted by the ensuing breakfast of hot chocolate and medialunas (croissants).


old wind and about -1°C bulb temperature. Ellies wet and the Puti Boys were in uproar again so no chances for deployment. We headed to the Outback where the wind and waves were more impressive. Had some muesli bars between gentoo penguin feathers and then started making our way back. 03 April


ine misty rain made it too wet for deployement. We cleaned the Dallmann and did some laundry. Nico checked out the old, but spacious and well equipped, gym, adjacent to which is a cinema with a massive screen and lots of seats and lovely wood panelling. 04 April

H Drugs and Glue Despite any colloquialisms we may use when describing immobilization (narcotisation) of elephant seals, we take extreme care to ensure the humane treatment, health and safety of the animals under our care. Zoletil (tiletamine-zolazepam) is administered intramuscularly by darting animals with a blowpipe. While animals are immobile, they are only superficially anaesthetised, and we must therefore remain quiet and handle the animal relatively gently (keeping in mind these are huge, robust animals). A blind is placed over the animal’s eyes and Horst continuously monitors the animal’s breathing. We attach the satellite-relay data loggers by gluing them to the fur (not skin) on the seal’s head using a two component, quick-drying adhesive. Once the device is attached we remove the blind and monitor the animal until it is fully responsive and able to defend itself against other seals. Happy seals mean happy Sealers.

The English are coming! The Shack’s crew land Thula. RR.

eavy rain and wind blowing at almost 40 knots, gusting to 50, so no good for deployment. Lunch was a smart story with two soccer ball sized chocolate eggs that Orlando (the base commander) smashed with a baton to reveal the sweets inside. Of course before this we ate approximately the annual meat production of Iceland. Magnificent 7 was playing in the background, in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. Fortunately Clint Eastwood is a man of few words. 05 April


eavy mist and fine droplets being blown in from the north-east. Not promising for deployment but fine for walking. One chap that did look nice and dry and in a good position had a big nasty wound on his lower back and we decided against stressing him further. The thick mist became worse, a bit more of a wind started up and we could feel the damp wetting us, so we had to decide against taking a chance with another well sized bull in a good position. 06 April


ith all the rain a massive volume of glacier ice had fallen into the sea and great amounts of brash ice had accumulated ashore. Soon the wind picked up even more and started blowing the ice away. No going out (again). Its been a while without a deployment but we are still quite relaxed: there are many bulls and time enough for our six remaining devices.

* A note From our main Argentine collaborator (Alejandro Carlini): Puti Club was a famous rock song in Argentina around 1988 or so. The song was composed about a real fight that happened in a bar in La Plata, and talk about this fight. Editor’s note: as a puti club is also a brothel, we couldn’t risk Googling the song for further details. Important reading We suggest the Sealers read the following article: Franklin DJ, Steinke M, Young J, Probert I, Malin G (in press) Dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP), DMSP-lyase activity (DLA) and dimethylsulphide (DMS) in 10 species of coccolithophore. Marine Ecology Progress Series. Disclaimer The usual disclaimer applies; we’re getting tired of apologising for our literary incompetence. Thanks! We’d like to thank our Lucky Stars (and the pilchards), our families, Marthán and the Sealers, the Mammal Research Institute, the Alfred Wegener Institute and our sponsors, Taiga and Hevea (Dunlop). Write to us But don’t spam us... Nico de Bruyn (CTD & Consulting editor) and Ryan Reisinger (MGD & Editor in Chief)

Upset among the Puti Boys. RR.

Met Eish 03  

Unofficial newsletter of the Alfred Wegener Institute (Germany) and Mammal Research Institute's (South Africa) 2010 elephant seal satellite...