Seals with laser guns
10 November 2013 | 64 49.7'S:063 29.8'W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy
When we first wedged Pelagic into the little ice gap that has become her home for the last few days we were delighted to see seals swimming around the boat. The debate still wages as to whether they were Leopard Seals or Weddell Seals, with Tudor claiming that the seal that was spy-hopping in the ice was a Weddell, and the rest of us rest of thinking that it was a Leopard. Since he was standing on the ice at the time, as the seal was eyeing a tasty meal, we suspect his certainty that it was a Weddell may have been wishful thinking. But then he is the only one of us with a Polar medal, so he probably knows a thing or two about these things. Since then, we've had definite identifications of both types, the cutest being a mother and her pup, still weaning, at the base of the sea ice below Goudier Island. All this seal talk leads me on to the strange noises we've been hearing on the boat.
Had Tudor not been there to identify them, Dave, by his own admission, would have been running for the sonar and checking for submarines. We had a debate last night as to how to describe the noise in question and we have come up with the following: Imagine a star trek episode, where the characters have laser tractor beams, the sound in question is what we think they would use to make the 'Beam me up' sound. Its a sort of long, semi-robotic chirrup-whine, very delicate and rather beautiful. It turns out that this is the sound a Weddell seal makes underwater, we suspect it may be the mummy-Weddell, calling to her pup, teaching it to swim under water. Sometimes we hear it very faintly, sometimes we hear it as if she is right outside the hull, but each time it has us giggling with excitement. To me, it is one of the most moving things I have experienced in Antarctica. Unfortunately for Andrew, as with all wildlife, it has a sense for when it is being watched, and as son as he tried to get his recording equipment out last night, it buggered off.