South Georgia Penguins and Whales

I mentioned in December that I was working on a science cruise 200 miles south-east of South Georgia on the NERC research ship RRS James Cook. We were looking at volcanic vents on the sea bed 2500 m under the ship. We were using CTDs (a conductivity, temperature and depth probe) and a remotely operated vehicle, all deployed from the ship. Therefore the ship was sat stationary in the water for several days. There were lots of chinstrap penguins and humpback whales in the area who were really inquisitive about us and came really close to the ship for a good look.

humpback

Unfortunately I discovered that my little compact camera isn’t great for taking photos of wildlife. The chinstraps move through the water very quickly. I’m going to save up for a digital SLR before we sail on Adventure 2013 in September. I got the best results taking videos with my camera. Despite being fairly small the chinstraps have a really loud call that they must use to find their friends amongst the waves. As they’re swimming they leap from the water every few metres to allow them to breathe and to save energy.

The humpbacks were huge! I didn’t capture it on a video but their breathing was really loud; I could hear them from inside the main lab on the ship.

I was really privileged to visit the area with work. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see South Georgia itself and so I’m very excited to be visiting the island on Elinca later this year. There are colonies of king, macaroni, chinstrap and gentoo penguins. Seals and many other sea birds also breed there.

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