Goan to Antarctica....

Goan scientist Helga do Rosario Gomes is en route to the icy continent, and is keeping her blog of the journey...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

On thin ice... with marine mammals

We ride the storm with aching calves and shattered glassware until five days later when we wake up battered and bruised to observe from the now safe decks, the largest of icebergs gleaming blue in the blinding sunlight.

It's a hugesquare chunk of ice with the sharpest of edges and the smoothest of sides. I could imagine it accommodating an entire housing colony.

Soon we find ourselves in thin ice and with it marine mammals.

Our young interns who are determined to save every mammal in the world, sight a mother seal and her pup. From then on, the bridge from where the captain and his cohorts navigate and keep vigil, phone us periodically with alerts on animal sightings. Oh the scramble that follows -- jackets, cameras and the dilemma of whether to go on the deck and see them from close but at freezing temperatures or to run up three fights of stairs to the heated bridge andsee them through the glass and from afar.

I often choose the latter. But the biggest sighting still eludes us -- penguins!

Some consider sighting their first penguin even more memorable than their first date. Determined to not leave it to chance, our interns spend their post dinner hours bundled in all of their issued clothing at the bow of the ship, until one confessed she that she had almost fallen asleep there.

They are hounded by email from an Antarctic veteran, Dean Paluski who posts his sightings every day. In addition to albatross, petrels and seals there is always a penguin on his list. He claims he sees them in the wee hours when all are asleep, so the interns counter by claiming to have seen a minke whale.

No one believes them except their mothers and their roommates far away at the University of New England who religiously read their blogs.


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