Heading out to meet Casey's wildlife

Runway prep and seal pups

On Friday 21st October, Ben, Perry, Barry and myself headed off station for an overnight jolly to Jack's donga – but first we had to help Sharon and Gavin set out the skiway for a Basler flight to arrive at Casey via McMurdo in the coming week.

Once we arrived at the skiway, we were greeted with nil horizon definition and poor surface definition. Once set up, we walked the 1.5km runway, drilling holes for flag poles every 100m and it was a difficult task to keep the flags straight in the low light. But with a black flag at either end of the runway and one in the middle, plus some questionable hand signals, we were on our way.

After completing the runway flags, we were off to Jack's. As we drove down the plateau, the visibility improved. Once settled in the hut, we got ready to head out onto the sea ice to see if we could find some Weddell seal pups in the Swain Group islands. When leaving the hut, we could see some dark marks on the sea ice a couple of kilometres to the north of the hut. So that was our first destination.

After an hour of walking, we came up to the seals wallowing on the ice. We were very lucky to come across three seal pups no more than a day or two old, laying with their mothers with their umbilical cords still attached. The young seals were quite active and curious. Once the mothers gathered that we weren’t there to hurt or take their new offspring, they became quite happy showing off their pups.

After taking some amazing photos and videos, we headed back via Berkley Island, where the noise of the Adélie penguins was coming from. Once arrived, we sat for an hour or more, watching the game of one penguin going to find a new rock for its nest, only to get back and find other penguins had stolen five or more rocks from its nest. A vicious game with no winners for the Adélies!

I felt amazingly privileged to be able to lay in the snow and watch the new Weddell seal mothers play with, teach and protect their new pups. An incredible Antarctic experience with a great group of friends that I will never forget.

-Zack Mitchell