Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Birds strikes, whales and icebergs

A regular feature of working at night on the ship is birds coming onto the deck after being attracted to the lights. They are unfortunately sometimes injured in collisions but most of the time they are unhurt. The deck isn't the cleanest place and they try to find a dark corner so can pick up oil, grease, degreasing agent etc. Throwing them off normally results in them flying straight back into the ship so we tend to box them up in the lab and release them at dawn.

Me releasing a Thin-billed Prion a couple of weeks ago - there aren't any Thin-billed down here (I think) and the beard has grown since (photos courtesy of Steve Jones). The flash makes it look darker - they are released soon after the horizon is clear, which has got earlier as we have moved effectively two time zones east without changing clocks. Ideally photos shouldn't use flash - I gave it a bit of time to recover and it flew off fine.

We left the Antarctic Fulmars to it as we didn't have boxes big enough, they tend to squirt oil at you if the feel threatened and also because they seemed to be having a good time running around the deck.

One did however fly into the anemometer on the foremast and break it. This meant we had to stop while Mike the sparky went up to fit the spare (wind speed is an input to the dynamical positioning that keeps us on station to within a few metres, as well as being useful scientifically, though not critical for this cruise).

Mike up in the cage to replace it

Getting supplies

New sensor in and the birds seem interested in testing its strength - it got pecked but not hit.

While Mike was up there we were stopped to reduce the ship movement and four Humpbacks approached from ahead of the bow and hung around for a bit. In a break with the pattern the light was initially quite good as the whales came close, but soon returned to the normal snowy conditions.

Also, with autumn pushing on and the wind from the south we are seeing more Snow Petrels.

Also, several icebergs around as there normally are.

With a Southern Right Whale tail

Same one with a Southern Giant Petrel

Probably volcanic debris from the South Sandwich Islands, with a calving event creating the clean bit

An old blue bit of ice sheet. It had a couple of arches the other side but we only saw them in poor light
A very clear horizon

And finally, slightly uncouth but true to the cruise name of ANDREX...

Friday, 9 April 2010

Whale tails

Slight delay in posting due to need to catch up with image processing: I filled my 8gb card twice, in a day. It's also been quite a busy period for work, but all data and image processing up to date now and much further between stations (40 miles instead of 4) and they are deeper so more time for work and non-work. First cardful was Southern Right Whales in the morning and then Humpback Whales in the afternoon. Conditions not ideal for photography but managed to find a good setting on the camera, came in and wiped the snow from the lens every so often and then had a play in Lightroom.

Southern Right Whale fluking:

And Humpback Whales

Humpback Whale spyhopping

And a couple of others

And a final Black-browed Albatross

Monday, 5 April 2010

More icy photos

Quick trip up to the bow while we were stopped on station, Sea spray from the last couple of days has been freezing on it in temperatures down to -9. Another Southern Right Whale yesterday, unfortunately just too far away for a photo as it hung around by a small piece of ice with about 15 Chinstrap Penguins on, much as the one the day before had hung around the ship.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Southern Right Whale (and it's cold)

Just as I was about to turn in yesterday news went round the ship that there was a whale close in on the starboard side. Turned out to be a Southern Right Whale, a relatively rare species but one I've seen a few times this trip (including a brief view of a tail earlier in the day). It continued to hang around the ship, coming within a few metres at times.

Split 'V' shaped blow

Arched jawline

Right Whales also don't have a dorsal fin

Quite close!

It showed the tail properly once but I was in the wrong place for a photo at the time. Interestingly, as it did, a second Southern Right Whale stuck its tail up as well:
It regular showed its tail flat on the surface but didn't raise it again

Also of note yesterday was the temperature, reaching -9C during the day, which is cold enough for the sea spray to freeze, and given that we were pushing into a force 7 at times (south-westerly, straight from the area of sea ice), there was a fair bit of spray. We now have light northerlies and the temperature is a balmy -2.