23 October, 1996
Today was another day of dive tending at Little RazorBack. The weather was much better than the last time we were here several days ago. A new diver, Tracy Hamilton, joined the group. She needed a dive partner to do an experiment with sea urchins and we needed a spryte since ours had a blown seal in the rear end. We used her spryte and she dove with Chuck and Bill. Jim, Chris, and Pat can't dive today because they will be flying to New Harbor tomorrow. They have been diving to about 100 feet every day for the past week. At those depths they are breathing compressed air that is under about four atmospheres of pressure. When they dive, the concentration of nitrogen in their blood becomes higher than normal. If they were to fly after diving, the rapid decrease in air pressure as the helicopter ascended could cause the nitrogen gas dissolved in their blood to come out of solution. This could result in a case of the bends or worse yet, an embolism. They have been working pretty hard and seem to appreciate the break from diving.
On the way back, Tracy asked me to stop at a seal-monitoring hut next to Razorback Mountain. On the sea ice around the mountain were several dozen Waddell seals with their newborn pups. Jim explained that by traveling for miles away from the ice edge to have their pups, the seals are able to avoid their main predators, killer whales and leopard seals. He went on to say they get through the ice by sawing and grinding holes with their teeth. Bill recounted a diving incident in which he would have been trapped under the ice had there not been a seal hole large enough to get his head and shoulders through.
The seal pup Iíve shown was born about eight hours before the picture was taken. In its mother, it was at a temperature of about 99oF. At birth it was trust into an environment where the temperature was -10oF and the wind speed was 10 mph. That must have been quite a shock. The mother is kept warm by about four inches of blubber and the pup by a beautiful fur coat. Although the seals are now protected, they were once hunted for their hides. Records from the turn of the century indicate ships would return from hunting trips with as many as 15,000 pelts.
Today was Gamini's birthday, Jenni made him a pull cord that he could attach to his zipper. The last time he had trouble with a zipper he ended up with frost bitten fingers.
I'm expecting to leave for New Harbor tomorrow, which means I'll be out of touch for the next week.
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