Living on the Sea Ice of McMurdo Sound

Think of operating in an environment of -22°F (-30°C) and add a breeze of 30 mph to it, and you get the idea of our working conditions at times. “Brrrrr” is about the only word that comes to everyone’s mind, but consider what the seals might say about giving birth or living their first hours as a furry newborn under these conditions! “Out of this world” comes to my mind. And yet, this is exactly what these Weddell seals we are investigating are doing on the sea ice of McMurdo Sound here in Antarctica.

After experiencing these conditions first hand, and seeing dozens of seals lining up along the tidal cracks – including some moms with newborn pups – I am in awe of their ability to live here and thrive. What an amazing opportunity it is for us to be here and to investigate how these newborns maintain a body temperature similar to ours, without a big down parka and five layers of wool clothing. How does a newborn pup, at the most fragile stage of life, survive such an extreme environment? We are so privileged and grateful to be the ones to try to answer that question.

Written by: Lars Tomanek

Heather Liwanag