Celia of the seals

by Gareth on August 13, 2008

sealhat.jpg It appears that my wish is someone’s command. Last month, blogging on the continuing break-up of the Wilkins ice shelf, I noted a reference to “seal hats” as data gathering devices and expressed a wish to see them. And here they are! Little devices glued to the heads of elephant seals that gather data as the seals as they go about their daily business. A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science explains:

Here, we show that southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) equipped with oceanographic sensors can measure ocean structure and water mass changes in regions and seasons rarely observed with traditional oceanographic platforms. In particular, seals provided a 30-fold increase in hydrographic profiles from the sea-ice zone, allowing the major fronts to be mapped south of 60°S and sea-ice formation rates to be inferred from changes in upper ocean salinity. […] By measuring the high-latitude ocean during winter, elephant seals fill a ‘‘blind spot’’ in our sampling coverage, enabling the establishment of a truly global ocean-observing system.

Abstract here, full paper here[PDF]. More coverage at New Scientist, e! Science News.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

CobblyWorlds August 14, 2008 at 7:04 am

Interesting, thanks for the link to the paper. I’ll give it a read.

Celia later….


thingsbreak August 15, 2008 at 2:01 am

I’m not quite sure how the time difference works out, but I mentioned the seal hats right around the same time: http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2008/07/11/wilkins-ice-shelf/

I seem to have found the wrong type of “hat” for my image, though.

gareth August 15, 2008 at 9:54 am

Yes, but your seal hats are much more David Shilling.

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