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Tue Jun 11, 2019, 10:28 PM

Seals with antennas on their heads helped scientists solve an Antarctic mystery

https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/11/us/elephant-seal-antarctic-ice-hole-polynya-trnd/index.html



(CNN) Scientists now have a better idea of why giant holes have been opening up in the ice of the Antarctic, and they were assisted by some unique field partners.

In 2016 and 2017, a hole of open water, called a polynya, appeared in the winter ice of the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. It eventually grew to about 19,000 square miles; roughly twice the size of Vermont. Though polynyas are not unusual, this large and frequent of a hole was a great opportunity for scientists to figure out why, exactly, these holes were appearing. A team from the University of Washington explored the hole with a combination of robots, radio equipment and seals with antennas stuck to their heads. Their findings were recently published in the journal "Nature."

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As for the elephant seals, the team used them to transmit data back to shore as they swam in the depths of the polynya. Historically, seals have been a serious asset to the scientific research community. For one, their movements help researchers get a good sense of a particular environment or area. And also, they are ostensibly not too bothered by having radio equipment glued (safely) to their heads.

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I hope the transmitters on their heads are, at least, comfortable.

...better than friggin' laser beams.

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