Working in Antarctica brings with it many unique experiences, and this week was no exception for the Antarctic Free Ocean Carbon Enrichment (antFOCE) experiment team.
Six of us headed out across the sea ice for a dive earlier in the week, to check the seafloor habitat and choose a site for the experiment deployment. After shovelling accumulated snow out of the dive hole, a friendly Weddell seal popped up through the hole to show us his tasty lunch — a large and unhappy icefish, or ‘Antarctic cod’. The seal proceeded to play with his meal for another minute before heading back underwater and gulping it down, leaving a few scales floating on the surface. After that the team were buzzing and the divers began to dress, equally nervous and hopeful that the seal would still be around!
Dive holes drilled through the sea ice offer a free breathing hole for Weddell seals, which usually have to dig such holes with their teeth. Weddell seals spend much of their time under the ice as this offers them protection from larger predators like leopard seals and orcas. Divers on the antFOCE team will have to remain vigilant for these larger marine creatures over the season.
Helena Baird — Scientific Officer