Counts of seabirds and marine mammals are conducted by helicopter by the researchers on Expedition to the Antarctic. Research vessel Polarstern is equipped with two helicopters to support science and as aid in emergency situations.
Foto: Pilot Michael Gischler and Jan van Franeker during the aerial survey.
Helicopters on board
Polarstern has been stationary for the last week. Counts of seabirds and marine mammals are conducted by helicopter, weather permitting. Polarstern is equipped with two helicopters to support science and as aid in emergency situations. At the moment we are staying at a long duration sea ice station, where a diving camp has been established on a large floe. We would love to fly a bird-mammal survey transect each day, but several groups need heli support, and unfortunately, the weather is not always favourable.
Last week we have been able to conduct two helicopter surveys to count the birds and mammals. The last flight had a bad start in a snow shower, but luckily conditions quickly improved allowing us a 90km southward transect over the sea ice. Our study area is less rich in top predators than I had expected, but on this flight we still counted 3 Minke Whales and 17 Crabeater Seals in our bandtransect. There were few penguins. From the ship observations we have learned that these occur in this area in exceptionally large, but consequently, scarce groups.
During our surveys we are extremely busy as everything happens at high speed. But now and then the helicopter needs to fly to high altitude to make radio contact with the ship. At those moments we can make pictures or video, and enjoy. We hope that this picture and message allows you to enjoy it all with us!
Jan Andries van Franeker
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