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Met Eish

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07 April – 14 April 2010 The season has definitely changed. The sun’s arc across the sky dipped closer to the northern horizon and the daily temperatures started hovering around the -10C. Life in the igloo became interesting for Nico. No more duckpond forming on the floor from roof leaks, but the snowdrift finds the cracks! Things froze all the time, especially at night when the little heater was switched off (so that my sinuses don’t dry out). An arm darting out from under the sleeping bag hit the heater switch in the early morning, to get the temperature in the igloo to around 1C so that I could

Issue Four: Expedition’s End 7 April - 5 May 2010

get out of the sleeping bag with some comfort. Heavy snow drift and windchill temperatures below -40C made many days impossible for outdoor excursions. However, we managed to deploy our remaining six devices successfully. Amongst the sample we managed to deploy on a bull weighing in at 2.6 tons post-moult (thus he would have been around 3.8 tons before the moult!). This chap is the largest of our sample of bulls. 15 – 23 April 2010 The temperature dropped further and maintained a chilly -15C during the day. We used two exquisite sunny days inbetween the poor weather days to do some final adult bull counts and just to have a lekker walk out to Stranger Point. Otherwise, spent some very productive days in the lab getting Photogrammetry projects done, killer whale proposals, killer whale MSc, reviews, etc. done. Of course there was always time for some foozball and after 31 straight defeats at the hands of our German friends, the SA booitjies FINALLY managed to break the drought. By 23

Evening view of Potter Cover, with Jubany on the right.

RR


April the games won score stood at 35 to Germany: 7 to South Africa! During this week a tentative possibility existed for us to depart from King George Island via a Uruguayan military flight but the plan remained just that… tentative…. and never materialised. 24 to 31 April 2010 The satellite internet connection whirred as plans for our departure raced along

email pathways between Jubany, Bremerhaven, Montevideo, Frei, Punta Arenas and so on. Finally it seemed (thanks to Dirk; the obviously patient and very efficient AWI logistics officer) we had reasonable clarity that our departure date was set, but obviously weather dependent. We did not allow ourselves too much optimism because as experienced “Polar Islanders” we fully understand the concept of “hurry-up-and-wait”, meaning you must hurry up and get ready, but be patient because you may not leave for a while. The date was set for 31 April and this time the Uruguayan military flight was confirmed for that date. All we needed to do was get across Maxwell Bay to the Chilean station ‘Frei’ where the aircraft would pick us up. The wind blew and the snow drifted heavily all week causing doubt as to our

Nico and Horst head past Stranger Point towards the Polar Club Glacier.

RR


chances of reaching Frei. We had not seen any calm water for weeks now and the chance of a return zodiac trip to Frei seemed a distant and unlikely event. Thus it was with some relief that we heard that the Chileans would come and fetch us with their helicopter on the 31st given that the conditions were fly-able, which was more likely than being ‘zodiacable’. April 30 at 22:00 and in anticipation of our departure in the morrow we received the rather unpleasant news that the Chilean helicopter would not come and collect us because it is not working! However, with a calm word and a touching gesture of hospitality our Argentinian friends offered to get the zodiacs ready before dawn and boat us across the bay if the sea surface was not too outrageously choppy. As luck would have it that night the wind dropped completely for the first time in weeks and by the morning of April 31st there was a calm crispness (-15C) still evident. Worryingly though, Potter Cove had started freezing over and the pancake ice was starting to join up to form large rafts of sea ice. The zodiacs struggled to get going in the freezing cold and our going was painstakingly slow through the sea-ice but an hour or so later we arrived with bitterly cold limbs at Frei. We bid our Argentine friends goodbye and watched as they traced their way back through the sea-ice to Jubany, contemplating what the ice would have been like had we been delayed by just one more day! 31 April – 5 May 2010 Our flight in the military Hercules back to Punta Arenas was terrifically noisy and cold but without any mishap. We enjoyed the novelty of our canvas seats in the cargo hold and once closer to South America, the spectacular views of the snow-clad mountains of Terra del Fuego. A final celebratory dinner that night with our German colleagues and the next morning we parted ways for the travels home. The Germans flew straight over Santiago de Chile to Buenos Aires while the South Africans hit the El Pinguino bus over to Rio Gallegos, spent a small eternity at the “international” airport there (with a most surreal midnight rush of people for our flight). Then the flight to Buenos where we again met up with Horst and Jochen for a final final goodbye. An incredible 600g Bife de Lomo steak each at El Establo put the cherry on top for Ryan and I on our last night in BA! Back home to SA and finding our feet again delayed the production of this last newsletter, but hey, here it is! The expedition was splendid, with good company and memorable times. Over and out!

Top: Sunshine on Potter Cove.

Bottom: Snowdrift drops visibility to a few metres.

RR and NdB


Ryan and Nico with our largest tagged bull.

Horst Bornemann


Thanks to Our German colleagues, Horst and Jochen. The AWI. Marthan Bester, the MRI and Department of Zoology & Entomology. The Argentine Antarctic Institute and our Argentinian collaborator Alejandro Carlini. All the overwinterers at Jubany, especially the Jefe (Orlando). Taiga and Hevea (Dunlop) without whom we certainly would have frozen! Write to us pjndebruyn@zoology.up.ac.za rrreisinger@zoology.up.ac.za Nico de Bruyn and Ryan Reisinger

Top: A Weddell seal assumes their characteristic pose.

Right: Gentoo penguin at sunset.

RR


Nico’s igloo with Tres Hermanos in the background.

NdB


The Jubany 2010 elephant seal team: Jochen Plรถtz (AWI), Nico de Bruyn (MRI), Ryan Reisinger (MRI) and Horst Bornemann (AWI).

RR


The beaches get emptier as the season wears on.

RR

Met Eish 04  

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

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