bloody rain! today of all days, rain was not required here - for this was the day that we planned to weigh and sex a hundred fur seal pups and 50 penguin chicks. The activity, coordinated by base member Alastair, was part of a regular monitoring programme over at Maiviken - an hour or so's walk over the hill to the west. Torrential rain, thankfully not much wind, greeted the ten or so of us ass we set off on our task - armed with flasks, hugh's brownies and full of high spirits....
The beach at Maiviken is monitored for seal and penguin activity throughout the year and it falls to Alastair - the base terrestrial biologist to organise this. In the summer he is over there several times a week - in the winter less so, but still the population density and survival rates of the animals are recorded to establish the health of the population for long term monitoring purposes.
Fortified with a cup of tea at the field hut, we set off down through furry tussock banks to the beach to find it almost empty of seals - so many of them were playing in the water - but still it was worth the effort and eventually the required number were caught. After initial training, when the importance of avoiding bites was thoroughly noted, we got stuck in to catching the baby fur seals. They are a month or two old now - and weight in between five and seventeen kilos - with nice, sharp little teeth. You can imagine us, running across the beach in oilskins in the driving rain pouncing on the little bitey buggers - and trying to carefully grab them by the rear flippers - holding them at arms length so that they didn't bite us, and then sexing them ( as difficult as it sounds) and finally marking them with spray and weighing them. Thankfully we had a good team of optimists - Jude smiled all the way through.
The penguins were much easier in a way - the chicks are easily caught ( says the man who was actually weighing them so I really have no idea) - but they were caught and weighed much more quickly. Just as it finished, of course, it dried up and we were able to make our way home feeling triumphant if rather damp.
The evening is calm now with a peachy sunset to the east and hardly any cloud. For the rest of the week we have another bread class - tomorrow night, and then a French evening on Saturday with yours truly at the stove - menu to follow, Gerard.