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Day thirty-nine

11 Jan 2019

Skua sabotage:

It started out sunny and promising! We headed to Litchfield to check on our plots. Best commute in the world: beautiful blue skies, seals on ice floes and the breathtaking scenery (Thanks Dave and Carolyn for taking us on the zodiac!). On our hike up to our site you can see Palmer station just behind peatbank hill (round the corner on the photo), with Mount William situated majestically behind.

Litchfield view of Palmer area

However, our enthusiasm was soon squashed when we saw our carefully placed incubation tubes scattered across our study site, and one of our sensors was pulled out. It was a veritable crime scene! On the right photo below we had put back one of the cores, but you clearly see a beak-shaped hole in front that a skua had made as it pulled out our core.

Scattered tubes


We recorded the locations of each of the cores that were pulled out (using GPS) and identified which ones were missing. We put these back in place and then looked for three that were missing. We found all but one.

Searching for cores

Guess who was watching us as we were searching? You guessed it: skuas.

Skuas observing

We returned to the lab to figure out how to make our site skua proof. Zee gave us chickenwire, and we cut these to the size of our plots. We returned tonight to lay these over our plots and secured them with the nails that delineate our plots (and Randy gave us extra nails). See day 60 for the photo.

We also have a backup plan: we are adding a lab experiment where we incubate samples at different temperatures. Definitely skua-proof.

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