Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements

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Special Report: Crittercam

Hi Gang,

As I write this I have a National Geographic video camera taking some shots of me and Gordon.

The team is Birgit who is the producer, and David is operating the camera. Birgit’s husband Greg was the one who originally set up this particular operation but unfortunately could not come on the trip. Dave came onto the team very late in the piece but has worked with Birgit before. Greg has developed a wonderful bit of technology known as Crittercam. This is a super light weight video camera and other electronics which can be attached to the back of sea animals so that the cameras can capture images and sound of their behaviour under water - things which you normally can’t see from above the surface.

The purpose of Crittercam is not about capturing images of what animals do underwater just for the viewing public. It is more about using the technology to actually assist the science of studying animal behaviour - whether foraging or mating systems, energetics, social behaviour and so on. The marketing of such films to the general public is somewhat of a by-product of the science but it serves to educate the public about animals, science and so on and also helps fund continuing research. Birgit and Greg have worked in some wonderful places around the world; they both have qualifications as Marine Biologists so they not only have the science behind them and can contribute directly to the research effort. They bring their special expertise - the camera work and more especially the high tech Crittercam.

For more information go to their website at NationalGeographic.

While the NGS team is at Davis between voyages 1 and 4, they will be working with a team of Biologists from the Australian Marine Mammal Research Centre in Sydney - this is a collaborative effort between the University of Sydney and Taronga Park Zoo. The team is studying Leopard Seals which are at the top of the marine food chain, very much the top predator. This is an animal which is not that well known, they are very solitary animals but tend to remain in the same general area. Birgit and her team will be working with Tracey and the other Biologists and their work will be to attach the cameras to the animal before it is released. The cameras can be set up in many different ways, but basically record images in the direction of the animal’s travel, but also data about depth, temperature, heart rate and so on. The cameras can be released from the animal in a number of ways and with their buoyancy will rise to the surface where they can be tracked and retrieved.

And what’s this about me being filmed? Well, Birgit has been taking to Gordon about me and has become very interested in what I am doing over here. So we set up this special interview during which we talked about Betty’s program, how Gordon and Betty got to meet, how I came to be out here, following in the footsteps of Brownie, how we are communicating, about the benefits which come from my travels, the learning experience which is coming from this, the link between American and Australian interests in Antarctica and the bond of shared experiences between Gordon and Betty. It’s really exciting and I hope they will be able to use some of the footage in their video. The first filming was of the start of this email in Gordon’s office. My best friend OzGold was in all the shots with me.

Tomorrow OzGold and I will be watching as Birgit interviews Gordon about the voyage, what we are doing, about the ship, the program, Gordon’s job, his aspirations, some of the activities (like the little prank Gordon pulled about the first iceberg), about our cargo and operations. This should take a couple of hours of taping. Of course there is all the other stuff before where Gordon has had the cameras on him - the fake iceberg, the CPR, the hunt for the piece of communications equipment in the hold, greeting the Leopard Seal Biologist when she came on board etc. And there is more to come - planning meetings, radio chatter, getting the cargo off the ship and so on.

Love to you all; will write again soon.



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