Thursday, March 28, 2013

The seals are back!

The days have been rapidly getting shorter as the season draws to a close, meaning our opportunities for boating are getting more and more limited. The chances of the weather being nice and cooperating during the narrow widows that we now have available are getting slim, but a couple weekends ago everything aligned and gave us a day of breathtakingly perfect weather on our day off.

This was to be a mandatory boating day, a day when it's so beautiful that you are effectively required to go
out on the water.

Home sweet home.
Usually most of the wreck of the Bahia is underwater, but tides this low bring it out.

Most of the penguins have left for the season, and the seals have moved in. Most seals, with the exception of Elephant seals, spend their summers feeding elsewhere, but as the days get shorter and colder they move into our area to spend the winter.


The fur seals were the first to arrive, and they're personally my favorite. Energetic, curious and active animals, they'll swim right up to the boat to check you out and figure out what you are.


And they are ADORABLE. They share so many of their mannerisms with dogs; their barks, their personality, everything about them reminds you of a giant playful puppy that just needs to be pet.

I wouldn't recommend it though, fur seals can be pretty aggressive. They're highly territorial and have charged people when on land, sometimes without provocation. So as cute as they are, it's best to keep your distance.

Holy smokes are they beautiful animals.

Crab-eaters are much larger, but still incredibly cute in their own way. Not nearly as hyperactive or mobile on land as the fur seals, they're not as aggressive either, and for the most part will completely ignore you unless you're just a few feet away. And at that point, the most you'll get out of them is usually a glance and a yawn, before they go back to sleep.


Docile as they may be, I still don't think I'd want to make them angry.

Ah yes, feets.  Feets are a good place for sleeps.

Not many Elephant seals left at this time of year, most of them have headed off to wherever it is that they spend the winters.  Mostly they come here during the spring and summer to breed and raise their pups, and once that's done they take off.  They're probably the most docile of all the seals, I've almost tripped on them occasionally because they're so easygoing on land that they don't even notice you most of the time.  Elephant seals aren't too bothered by anything that's smaller than them, and that's not much.  Even this juvenile is far larger than the full grown fur seal.

See, we CAN all just get along!

But these aren't the only seals that have returned . . . no, we also have the Leopard Seals returning.  One of the fiercest predators on the whole continent, they can best be described as s grizzly bear that swims.

They're not as outwardly aggressive as fur seals, because when you carry a proverbial stick this large, you don't have to be.  Anyone who doesn't respect you will learn their lesson very quickly.

Don't let the cute face fool you, their jaws are enormous and powerful enough to crush almost anything they can fit in their mouth. Besides the spotted coat, the most obvious physical characteristic of the Leopard seal is their gigantic head.


Aside from the influx of seals, there's still a few of our favorite critters wandering around.  Mostly juveniles, guys that for whatever reason haven't built up the gumption to head out to sea on their own yet.

Other birds are making their presence known as well, feeding on the last of the big krill blooms of the season.

We stretched the boating hours to the absolute limit, as we knew that our days of this sort of weather were likely numbered.  Winter is moving in now, bringing with it the clouds, rain and soon snow.  But this day was good enough to bless us with one last brilliant sunset.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

That's not mud

I thought, just maybe, that I'd make it a whole season without having to go crawling around under the buildings.  And I almost made it!  The tunrover boat was just a week away! But at the last minute fate intervened and dashed my hopes.

And just for a fun little twist, the area that I had to go crawling around in was exactly where we'd had a large raw sewage spill earlier in the season.  Before I went under, I told myself that it wouldn't be that bad.  Surely the summer snow melt had washed most of the, uh, material away.

It hadn't.

It's just mud, I tried to convince myself.  Just mud.  Plain mud, nothing more.

When you're covered in sh*t, sometimes all you can do is grin.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Whale Watching

We've done a lot of boating and seen a lot of whales so far this season, and I finally had some time to sit down and cut together a compilation video of one of the nicest days out boating we had all season. Enjoy!

Shootin' it old school


...Where's the screen?  How do I look at the photo I just took?  Where's the memory card go?  HELP.

Somehow I ended up in possession of this . . . I guess it's called a camera?  But it doesn't do any of the usual camera-y things! And the chips used to store pictures are these ENORMOUS cylinders the size of a D battery, which usefully enough we have an entire mini-fridge full of here on station.  (Confession:  I had to have someone show me how to load it.  I have never in my life loaded film into a film camera.)

Usefully, this uses all of the same lenses that my REAL camera does, and most of the controls are very similar, save for it being noisy as heck and having hardly any storage space.  Someone said one of those giant memory things only holds like 36 pictures?!

I've taken this out on a few boating trips and hikes around station, which left holding these strange little cylinders in black cases.

I have to . . . label stuff?  Why's there no meta-data?

But even though someone said that these have the pictures on them, I still couldn't get them onto the computer.  They won't fit anywhere!

Maybe if I push REALLY HARD

So I talked to one of the more "experienced at life" people on station, and they were kind enough to take me into this crazy blacked out room full of smelly chemicals.  This room, they said, would be able to magically take the photos out of these funny little cylinders!

They set up a bunch of plastic thingies and trays full of stuff and poured some liquids around, then they told me to put the "Occupied" sign on the outside of the door before they turned out the lights.  She said that this was a very very old type of magic she had to do, which could only be accomplished in the dark.  Weird!

And then she proceeded to open up the little canisters and take out this long spool of stuff, which looked like this;

And then she spooled them onto some reel type things, which looked like this:

Then she poured some chemicals over them and sloshed them about for a bit, like this:

Finally, after waiting an ETERNITY of about five minutes, she pour the chemicals out and poured in some different chemicals, sloshed them about some more, and then she said I could turn on the lights!

So . . . where are the images?
 I was hoping that she'd unravel these things and then there would finally be a USB plug or a memory card or something and the end, so I can get the images, but no!  Now we've got these really long strips of plastic that we had to hang up and let dry.

I looked really carefully at these strips of plastic, and it's CRAZY!  They've got tiny little pictures on them, only they're all reversed!  I'm not sure what good they are . . . I mean, I can't edit them, I can't send them to my friends, I can't put them on the internet, they're useless.  What am I supposed to do with tiny little plastic pictures?

Anyway, my instructor gave me some plastic sheets and told me to cut the rolls up and put the little tiny plastic pictures in them, for safekeeping.

I guess eventually, I can do something called "enlarging" and "developing" or something like that.  Maybe THEN I'll finally get some actual images!

Is this how ALL people had to take pictures in the olden days?  No wonder there's no images of dinosaurs, no one could be bothered to go through all this work every time they wanted pictures.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


This is it, guys.  Turnover.  The LMG got in a couple days ago, bringing the bulk of the winter crew with it.  Also, fish.  Lots of fish, which due to their delicate nature were the very first things unloaded off the ship, in these gray crates.

Turnover is a strange time here; it's a dichotomy of one tired crew getting packed up, getting ready to leave and head back to the real world, while another crew is arriving full of energy and looking forward to the coming season.  I have only a few more days on station; on Monday we will move onto the LMG, in preperation to depart station on April 2nd. 

What a long, strange season it's been . . .

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I've shot many pictures of penguins this season, but I think this is the best one I've taken by far.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Return of the night

Winter is coming, and with it comes the blackness of night once again. But the night is precluded by one very impressive show.

And again

Pulled kitchen duty for the second time in a row this week, so again the juice machine fell to me. I am nothing if not predictable.