A few days ago we were at Charcot Island a starkly beautiful place surrounded by patchy sea ice and big icebergs. We were actually in the vicinity of Charcot for 3 days doing a “process station” which means a lot of sampling in a relatively small area. The primary purpose of going to Charcot was to get the “birders” ashore to survey the Adelie penguin colony there. The Gould first visited Charcot in 2009 as the melting ice allowed the ship to get close to the Island. They wanted to visit because they had a hunch there would be a penguin colony there because Charcot isnear an underwater canyon and penguins tend to feed near these sites. Well, the prediction was right and they found a small colony of Adelie penguins. The study of this site is important as it represents a look back in time compared to the colonies further north. By attaching the PTT (Platform Terminal Transmitter tags) Sean and Kirsten can monitor the foraging paths of the Adelie. Shawn Farry and Kristen Gormen study Charcot so they can take a census and weigh the chicks to characterize the health of the Adelie penguin colony. The first time we sent Shawn and Kristen ashore, after a long, torturous trip, they arrived at Charcot, went ashore, and the weather changed – the wind came up and it began to snow so they retreated back to the Gould. We repositioned the boat and later that afternoon they made it ashore and completed the survey. You can understand that planning our activities down here is difficult as it all depends on the weather and the ice conditions.The continuing studies will be able to document the changes as the sea ice continues to retreat. The second picture shows one of the big tabular icebergs which abound around here. These bergs are remnants of part of the Wilkins Ice shelf, a portion of which broke up several years ago and allowed approach to Charcot. Note that 90% of an iceberg’s volume is below the water!
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