Seals: Graceful underwater, adorably useless on land

Underwater, Antarctica's Weddell seals are fast-moving, graceful predators, catching and eating as much as 100 pounds of food per day. They dine on squids and fish and have been known to enjoy the occasional penguin or two.

On land, they are hilariously ineffectual blobs of jelly.

You can see that dichotomy in action in this great (and long) video made by Henry Kaiser in Antarctica. Following the adventures of a baby seal on the ice and under the water, the video is peaceful, meditative and reminds me a bit of the sort of old-school Sesame Street video that would build simple, kid-friendly narratives out of nature footage and music. (The music, by the way, was written and performed by Henry Kaiser, as well.)

Despite their poor performance in land-based locomotion, Weddell seals actually live on the ice, descending into the water to hunt and mate and swim around. They use natural holes in the ice to get from above to below and back, but they also work to maintain those holes and often use their teeth to chew at the edge of the ice and make a small hole larger. At about 13 minutes into the video, you can watch a seal doing just that — rubbing its head back and forth to enlarge an opening in the ice.

And why hang out on the ice, to begin with? Simple. In the water, seals are, themselves, potential dinners for larger creatures. On land, they have no natural predators at all and can safely bask in the sun, lying on their cute and chubby bellies for so long that their body heat hollows out divots in the ice.

Halloween greetings from Antarctica

Henry Kaiser is kind of our man on the inside in Antarctica. He works there every year as a film maker, turning science into movies. He sent this awesome Halloween greeting from underneath the sea ice.

Bonus: He also sent us a video taken at the same spot — only this has 100% fewer wacky masks and 100% more sea anemones.

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Infrared portraits of scientists and staff in Antarctica

Henry Kaiser—filmmaker, musician, Antarctic research diver and BoingBoing guest blogger—took a series of infrared portraits of scientists and staff at the McMurdo Research Station. I really like the way these infrared photos feel like they capture the cold environment better than a normal photo would. Another bonus: I keep having to remind myself that, no, everybody in Antarctica has not dyed their hair blue.

Observation tube under the Antarctic sea ice

One more incredibly cool video from research diver, musician, and filmmaker Henry Kaiser. Henry says:

"Since support workers in town cannot make their usual recreational trips out onto the sea ice, the powers-that-be at McMurdo Station installed the OB TUBE within walking distance of town.

Anyone can climb down the ladder and watch us divers at work under the ice. The snow was bulldozed off of the sea ice around the observation tube, creating a very light environment; which seems to have attracted an enormous population of larval and juvenile ice fish that form great clouds around the tube."

Suddenly, I wish I were washing dishes in Antarctica.

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A tour of McMurdo Station, Antarctica

This video was made by Henry Kaiser, a musician and research diver who guest blogged here yesterday about the problems caused by thinning sea ice in Antarctica. The film takes you on a tour of McMurdo Station and the research being done there by Gretchen Hoffman of the University of California Santa Barbara.

Kaiser dives for different researchers every year. This year, he's working with Hoffman's team, helping them study the effects of climate change on ocean life. Specifically, Hoffman has Kaiser out collecting Antarctic sea urchins so that her team can extract the animals' sperm and eggs to test the development of sea urchin zygotes in differing conditions of PH and temperature.

There's great footage in here of human life above the ice, and animal life below. It's a bit long, but I recommend taking the time to watch the whole thing.

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Recycling in Antarctica

When I recycle, I have to separate out metal, plastic, chipboard, glass, plain paper, glossy paper, and newsprint. That sounds like a lot of separating, until you compare it to the recycling protocol at McMurdo Scientific Research Station, Antarctica.

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Music video set beneath the Antarctic sea ice

Dayton's Wall is an underwater geologic formation named for Paul Dayton, a marine ecologist who studies the lives and interactions between seafloor-dwelling organisms. Located in Antarctica, in an area of the Ross Sea between McMurdo Station and Cape Armitage, Dayton's Wall is a great place to spot creatures that live on the rocky Antarctic seafloor.

This footage of life on Dayton's Wall was shot by Henry Kaiser, a man with a really awesome CV. Kaiser is a musician and filmmaker, and for the last decade he's also worked as a research diver, conducting dives beneath the Antarctic sea ice on behalf of scientists stationed at McMurdo.

Kaiser has turned some of his footage into music videos, set to songs performed by Nik Bärtsch's RONIN. With the artist's permission, Kaiser made two music videos. This one, and another set just beneath the surface of the ice. They're both beautiful and haunting, and make me want to find out more about Nik Bärtsch's RONIN, who I'd never heard of before.

We'll have more from Henry Kaiser soon, including an upcoming guest blog post. Watch this space for Antarctic wonders. And, in the meantime, check out his YouTube page. He posts new videos every day.

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