It’s too cold, even for seals…
This is the first time I get to be down on the ice this early in the season. And you can feel the difference. While the temperature has been relatively warm for this time of the year, it still is too cold for us, humans with made up insulation. The thermometer right now is marking -23˚C (that is -6˚F for those non-scientist ones), but the wind chill makes the temperature feels like -37 ˚C or -35 ˚F.
So, it is cold out there. We decided to toughen it up and go out in our snowmobiles and check whether any pups had been born yet. It’s a simple enough thing to do, which involves about 45 minutes to get ready and put on all the Extreme Cold Weather (ECW, Antarctic science looooooves acronyms) and walk to where the snow mobile are, and then spend perhaps another 30-45 minutes making sure that the engines are not covered in snow, that the snowmobiles are not frozen to the ground, warming them up, getting fuel, etc. Several times when doing this, we end up taking layers off because you warm up too much and you want to avoid sweating like the plague.
We head out on the sea ice on a gorgeous day and made it to a couple of the Weddell seal colonies. Being so cold, and early in the season, we didn’t find many females with pups. Actually we saw no pups, but we had the chance to explore the area a bit, head towards the sea ice edge, We ran into big groups of subadult and male Weddell seals which are not yet in their reproductive colonies (where pregnant females are now waiting to give birth), and also groups of very curious emperor penguins that can’t stop but going to check out those big things in red jackets.