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Antarctic Postcard from the Field: Sea Ice Is Breaking Up - Windows to the Universe

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   Image courtesy of Jean Pennycook

From: Jean Pennycook
Ross Sea, December 31, 2006

Sea Ice Is Breaking Up

As the Antarctic summer progresses, the sea ice melts. This sea ice covers the top of the ocean next to the continent and the Ross Sea. Large cracks open up in the expanse of ice which allows whales to get into parts of the Ross Sea, parts that have not been disturbed or fished since last February. Toothed whales such as Orca eat the large fish that live near the bottom of the sea here. The fishing is good in the Ross Sea so many pods (groups of whales) find their way to this area swimming up the cracks to get first chance at these fertile grounds. The ice is still more than a meter thick, so safe for us to walk on, and since this opening was not too far from the research station, we went out to see them. The opening was about 2 meters wide and these killer whales (Orca) were in a group of about 30, using the crack so that they could come to the surface and breathe as they searched for food. They knew we were there; they looked at us as they surfaced, but did not alter their course or speed. We felt very insignificant against their raw strength and power.

Marine Life

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Postcards from the Field: Antarctica

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