January 4, 2009
In the 1960s, American researchers at Cape Crozier studied South Polar Skuas for a while, and banded many of the local nesting birds. Incredibly enough, 50 years later, some of the those same birds are still around, and their bands are still readable (metal numbered tags around their ankles). We still keep track of any skuas that are banded, if for no other reason than curiosity. A couple days ago, I found a skua with a different-looking band and read the word “Paris” on the metal. Surprise! No, it wasn’t banded in France, but a team of French scientists apparently spent some time studying skuas at another site on Ross Island at one point. There are also Italian-banded skuas lurking around. Birds here assume the nationality of the researchers who study them, as in: “That’s an Italian skua”.
I spent most of the morning helping get some gear ready to be shipped out on a helicopter scheduled to land here tomorrow. In particular, we spent an hour or two getting a full barrel of gray water un-stuck from a puddle it had frozen into, so we could roll it down to the helo pad. The heavy barrel was stuck fast enough that we had to pour boiling water to melt the ice and use a prybar and ice-axes to leverage it from its spot.