Watching the locals

A little seal pops its head up through a hole in the ice. It is very cute.
A curious crabeater seal uses the hole as a peephole (Photo: Hugh Jones)
The ship stands by as the crew on the ice stand around to dig the hole in the ice.Expeditioners stand around the ice hole with their cameras ready to take a photo.Several people on cross-country skis heading away from the shipWhite seal lying on the ice.Two penguins on the ice, one lying down and sliding

Tuesday 9 October

We reached our fourth ice station on Saturday and tumbled out onto the ice to greet a relatively warm (-10°C) and windless afternoon. With a blizzard forecast for Sunday, scientists were keen to set up their instruments and begin taking measurements and samples.

The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) team craned their heaving drilling equipment on to the ice and soon had a large hole dug for the ROV deployment. As the science technical support team stood over the hole skimming ice from the surface, a crabeater seal popped its head out and had a good look around. Marine scientist Hugh Jones was in the right place at the right time and managed to get these photographs (right). The excitement attracted a crowd around the hole, waiting patiently for the seal to reappear. But the seal had other ideas and was spotted a short time later emerging from the open water behind the ship and shimmying across the ice at an improbable speed.

The ROV hole crowd migrated across the ice to a respectful distance and watched as the seal caught up with another that had been lying unobserved behind a hump in the ice floe. The pair of crabeaters then roved around a bit, rolling in the snow like cats in a dust bath, before charting a course back to the ship. While one seal disappeared behind the ship the other decided to take another look at our transect, delighting more people as it purposefully motored past.

Another unusual sight was our Voyage Leader Andy Cianchi out on the ice on a pair of cross country skis. With so much snow on top of the ice floes at the moment it’s a great way to get around – almost as efficient as the emperor penguins we’ve seen pushing themselves about on their bellies.