Everyone poops

Everyone poops.

Remember that book? Sometimes poop is just kind of gross and inconsequential, like when we do it in a bucket in a tent at our field camp (it’s true, we really do), but sometimes it’s actually really useful. For our project, we’re examining the food web in the Ross Sea—who eats whom and where and how much. In this case, it’s really helpful to look at animal poop to try to get an idea of what animals are eating. Specifically, our group is going around collecting seal poop so that we can examine it. Sound gross and cool? Exactly. This is what it looks like when a seal poops:


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The Observation Tube, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

The Observation Tube or “Ob Tube” is a tube that goes through the sea ice into the seawater underneath. It allows people to get a glimpse of what Antarctic divers see down below. The sea ice is approximately 2 meters thick in this area and the water is around 8 to 9 meters deep. At the bottom of the tube is a windowed viewing area where you can stand and watch the sea life under the ice. It is quite a wonderful treat for the people working at McMurdo Station!

P1020576
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More Food

Last time I wrote about garbage, and how some bears in the Arctic are so hungry they are foraging in garbage dumps (see 19 Nov. post). And the reason we “polar bears” decided to attempt this long imaginary trip from the Arctic to the Antarctic is because we are starving – and we are starving because the Arctic sea ice, where we live and hunt during the summer months, is melting too much for us to hunt effectively. Here in East Antarctica, the sea ice is still expansive, in fact it is even MORE expansive than it usually is. But, you have probably heard about global warming – how is it that there is MORE ice down here?
Emperor penguins that better watch out - for polar bears!
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Food, Glorious Food

Have you heard of the food chain? Basically, the bigger, faster animals eat the smaller, slower animals and, often, the smaller animals eat plants. For example, an antelope eats grass and then lions eat antelope. How does that work in the Polar Regions? In the Arctic, Polar Bears are the top predator, and, thus, at the top of the food chain.

A polar bears stomach can hold 15%-20% of its weight, and a bear can weigh in at 400-1000 pounds, which means that a polar bear can eat 150-200 pound of food in one sitting!! That’s like eating 360 medium apples at once! Or around 60 large pizzas at once! They need about 4.4 pounds of fat per day to obtain enough energy to survive; that’s like eating over 17 sticks of butter a day!

polar-bear-facts
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The Camp

A lot of work went into the making of SCINI-Penguin camp. Every member of the bear clan played a part in erecting the tents then setting them up for the required usage. When we first built the camp the sea ice was relatively flat with little or no snow. Now that camp is in place every tent, pole, barrel, and what ever else sticks up catches the blowing snow and causes drifting. As you can see there is lots of snow built up and to maintain camp in working order so we can just move from tent to tent requires almost daily shoveling. The camp “town” site contains the heated cook tent, the heated engineering tent, a unheated storage tent, and a freezer tent. In addition to the tents are barrels of fuel for the snow machines and other gasoline equipment, propane tanks for the stove and heat and lots of other gear needed for our work.

SCINI-Penguin town site

Polar Bear SK shoveling snow
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