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Entry for July 24, 2007

Heavy rain squalls all day, although the winds diminished in the late morning. The darting team had a red-letter day, collecting 25 samples. In the late morning, Brian got in the water with about 5 right whales, and they all circled him for a while, offering some great closeup views, although the light was relatively poor. The underwater visibility in the nearshore waters is diminished by freshwater mixing, making underwater photography less than optimal. Aboard the ship we managed to collect health assessments on about 6 whales between rain squalls.

In the afternoon, a small group went ashore to visit the remnants of the last attempted settlement here (1848-1852), which is now represented only by a cemetery. It includes the remains of a couple of infants, and several sailors, one who died of exposure on one of the outlying islands, and one who died of starvation on another. Life was a fragile thing here in the 1800's, and even now, with high tech communications and a robust steel hull under us, the harsh weather and inhospitable shorelines dictate that our operations here be cautious.

On shore, there are trails throughout the island made by pigs and sea lions. Matt and Kelly found a sea lion way up into the bush, and we found some slides that the sea lions must use to return to the sea (at high speed). We also found fresh pig tracks and rooting marks. Introduced by the settlers in the 1800's, the pigs have done tremendous damage to the islands, and probably were responsible for eliminating most land-nesting seabirds from Auckland Island. Other wildlife sightings included a bell-bird, several Auckland Island Cormorants, white-fronted Terns, and some small gulls (still working on the identifications).

In the evening between sample organization and data analysis, there is eating and talking. Matt gave Allison a break from cooking yesterday, and in spite of his modesty, he continued the tradition of excessively good food. It looks to be an improvement in the weather tomorrow, so plans are made for a long day of work. That also dictates early to bed, although some of the diehards stayed up and watched a movie. The wind howls at 30+ knots as we turn in.

Quote of note:

"Where there's smoke, there's dinner." B. Skerry

Anchored in the Southern Ocean's vacation destination,

Scott Kraus